Flying without fossil fuels: the first ever plane without moving parts

Flying without fossil fuels: the first ever plane without moving parts
©iStock/den-belitsky

Engineers at MIT are flying the first ever plane without moving parts, powered by an ionic wind instead of propellers or turbines.

MIT have created the first ever plane without moving parts, using the ionic wind, also known as electroaerodynamic thrust. The ionic wind can be produced when a current is passed between a thin and a thick electrode. If enough voltage is applied, the air in between the electrodes can propel a small aircraft.

Flying without fossil fuels

According to MIT, the silent, lightweight aircraft doesn’t depend on fossil fuels or batteries.

Steven Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, said: “This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system…This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”

The design of the plane

According to MIT, the team’s final design resembles a large lightweight glider. It weights approximately five pounds and has a five metre wing span. The aircraft “carries an array of thin wires, which are strung like horizontal fencing along and beneath the front end of the plane’s wing. The wires act as positively charged electrodes, while similarly arranged thicker wires, running along the back end of the plane’s wing, serve as negative electrodes.”

The future of planes: “more like shuttles in Star Trek”

Barrett said his idea for the plane was partially inspired by the film and television series, “Star Trek,” which he watched avidly as a child. Barrett added: “This made me think, in the long-term future, planes shouldn’t have propellers and turbines… They should be more like the shuttles in ‘Star Trek,’ that have just a blue glow and silently glide.”

In the shorter term, Barrett expects that ion wind propulsion systems could be used to fly less noisy drones.

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