Sci-fi plane with no moving parts takes first flight

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The first ever “solid state” plane, with no moving parts in its propulsion system, has successfully flown for a distance of 60 metres, it does not rely on fossil fuels to fly. Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said

The plane uses technology featured in the cult sci-fi fantasy series, and scientists say it combats both air and noise pollution.

Resembling a big glider, the energy-efficient and lightweight machine does not depend on fossil fuels, and is completely silent.

The flight according The Guardian represents a breakthrough in “ionic wind” technology, which uses a powerful electric field to generate charged nitrogen ions, which are then expelled from the back of the aircraft, generating thrust.

The flight is a milestone in “ionic wind” technology and could pave the way for quieter and environmentally cleaner aircraft in the future; engineers said when they published their findings in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

London-born Steven Barrett, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT in the US, said: “This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler and do not emit combustion emissions.”

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

He expects it to lead to silent drones in the near-future, before being scaled up for passenger jets and other large aircraft.

The technique is based on the propulsion of ions – or electrically charged atoms – out of a nozzle at high speed.

It was the idea behind the shuttlecrafts that effortlessly skimmed through the air with no moving parts, noise or exhaust in Star Trek.

Reporting details from CNN, Steven Barrett, an aeronautics professor at MIT and the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, said the inspiration for the project came straight from the science fiction of his childhood. “I was a big fan of Star Trek, and at that point I thought that the future looked like it should be planes that fly silently, with no moving parts – and maybe have a blue glow. But certainly no propellers or turbines or anything like that. So I started looking into what physics might make flight with no moving parts possible, and came across a concept known as the ionic wind, with was first investigated in the 1920s.

“This didn’t make much progress in that time. It was looked at again in the 1950s, and researchers concluded that it couldn’t work for aeroplanes. But I started looking into this and went through a period of about five years, working with a series of graduate students to improve fundamental understanding of how you could produce ionic winds efficiently, and how that could be optimised.”



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