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Ion drive space engine used on airplane for first time

Credit: Steven Barrett / MIT     Imagine an aircraft engine that has no moving parts, produces no harmful exhaust and makes…



Credit: Steven Barrett / MIT

Imagine an aircraft engine that has no moving parts, produces no harmful exhaust and makes no noise. That’s what researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have created by adapting a technology previously used only in spacecraft so it can power flight over the Earth.

Ion drives have been used on spacecraft since the 1

960s and work by firing out a stream of charged particles that propel the vessel forward. Så vel som at være CO2-nøytral, de er mindre tilbøyelige til å gå galt og billigere enn å vedlikeholde enn vanlige motorer, fordi de har ingen propeller, turbiner eller brændstofpumper til at bryde ned. Det eneste problemet var at, i jordens tyngdekraft, den kraft som blev produsert ved den drivkraft var ikke nok til at overvinne de nødvendige batterier for å drive dem. Until now.

The timely new research, published in Nature paves the way for the possibility of silent drones in the very near future. Med videre fremskritt i materialer og kraftkonvertering, stille flygtige fly og eventuelt kommercielle flyvninger kunne også være på horisonten. In fact, this breakthrough could be the first step in changing how we all fly around the world in the future.

All aircraft engines work by pushing something backwards so that the craft moves forward. Vanligvis is dit lucht, of koude lucht aangedreven door elektrische propellers of warm lucht ontsnapt uit jetmotoren. Ion propulsion instead sends out charged particles or ions generated in the gap between two electrodes with a high voltage inbetween. The ions interact with the air, creating an ionic wind that is sent backwards, propelling the aircraft forward.

As with propeller-driven solar powered aircraft, ion drive craft are powered by electricity and so do not need to carry fuel, other than batteries filled with charged particles.

Compromise design

A craft, which includes a number of clever modifications to the battery setup and the way the electrical power is converted, it’s possible to reduce the battery weight enough to make this technology fly. med en ion-drivenhet trenger også et stort frontområde for at generere den ioniske vind på den rigtige måten. Men dette ville normalt gøre flyet tyngre, så forskerne måtte balansere disse motstridende begrensninger. De designet en vingepan som var lille nok til at reducere risikoen og gøre testningen billigere og lettere, mens den var stor nok til at bruge standard fjernbetjeningselementer.

The researchers flew in flight using an aircraft with a 5-meter wing, weighing less than 2.5 kilograms. De var i stand til at flytte den i opptil 9 sekunder over en 45 meter lang avstand på en hastighet på 5 meter per sekund. The craft needed around 20 seconds to build up its power and was then launched using a mechanical bungee system.

While this flight time and distance might not seem like much, the researchers point out that they are actually similar to those of The first flight of aeroplane inventors was the Wright Brothers in 1903. Making further advances in materials and power electronics, and optimizing the airframe, could enable the craft to fly faster and for longer. Det kan også være mulig å bruke solcellepaneler til å generere strømforbruket til strømforsyningen.

En av de største fordelene ved en ion-powered håndværk er dens nær-nul niveauer af støj. So it’s probably the technology will find its first application in silent drones. Dess lack of moving parts bør gøre det relativt enkelt at skala systemet ned for mindre håndverk og gjøre det lettere å skalere opp. Men større håndverk vil også kræve en større stigning i kraft. To build an ion-powered airliner, you would need to increase the amount of power relative to the craft’s size 300 fold.

But look how far we have come since the Wright Brothers’ first flight. The sky may be the limit with this new technology.


Explore further:
Engineers fly first-ever plane with no moving parts

Journal reference:
Nature


Provided By:
The Conversation


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Faela