Researchers from MIT and NASA have developed an aircraft wing that can change shape and increase the efficiency of aircraft, production and maintenance, according to MIT News.
On a traditional aircraft wing, only parts of the wing, like tabs and ailerons, can move to change the direction of the planet. The wing designed by MIT and NASA researchers could move in its entirety.
The wing is made of hundreds of small, identical pieces that contain both rigid and flexible components that make it easier and more efficient than traditional aircraft wings. Because the wing could adapt to the different characteristics of each flight step (start, landing, steering, etc.), it can work better than traditional wings that are not designed to maximize performance in any part of a flight.
“We can achieve efficiency by matching the shape to the loads of various attack functions,” NASA’s research engineer Nicholas Cramer MIT News told. The wing parts are arranged in a lattice structure which creates a large amount of empty space and is covered by a thin polymeric material. Combined, the wing material and structure make it as solid as a rubber-like polymer (but much less dense) and as light as an airgel.
MIT PhD student Benjamin Jenett told MIT News that the wing performed better than expected during a test in a wind tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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