Express UK | April 27, 2019 | By Sean Martin
NASA has worked alongside researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create the new jet which could make air travel much more efficient. The plane has wings which are a mixture of stiff and flexible structures, allowing them to change flight mid-flight which would make them much more aerodynamic. The wings are also much lighter than standard wings as they are made out of a lightweight lattice framework, giving them a density of 5.6kg per cubic metre.
For reference, regular wings, which are made from rubber have a density of about 1,500kg per cubic metre.
The lighter framework will make flights much more cost effective, scientist have stated.
Nicholas Cramer of NASA Ames in California, and co-author of the study published in Smart Materials and Structures, said: “We’re able to gain efficiency by matching the shape to the loads at different angles of attack.
“We’re able to produce the exact same behavior you would do actively, but we did it passively.”
Benjamin Jenett, a graduate student in MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, said: “The wings have the same stiffness, but ours has less than roughly one-thousandth of the density.
“You can make any geometry you want. The fact that most aircraft are the same shape is because of expense.
“It’s not always the most efficient shape.”
A prototype built by NASA is five metres along, and will be able to seat one person.
While this craft was hand built, the researchers say in the future robots could mass-produce the crafts making it an even cheaper process.
Daniel Campbell, a structures researcher at Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, who was not involved in this research, said: “The research shows promise for reducing cost and increasing the performance for large, light weight, stiff structures.
“Most promising near-term applications are structural applications for airships and space-based structures, such as antennas.”