Engineers Create Ion Thrust Plane Based on Star Trek
Moving parts and fuel may be a thing of the past for the aircraft of our future if Steven Barrett of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and his team have anything to say about it. According to a paper recently published in Nature, they’ve “created a so-called electroaerodynamic-powered plane, on that uses solid-state propulsion, meaning no propeller or jet engines with expendable fuel,” IFLScience.com reported.
“The future of flight shouldn’t be things with propellers and turbines,” Barrett says, “ should be more like what you see in Star Trek, with a kind of blue glow and something that silently glides through the air.”
The aircraft they developed has a wingspan of 16 feet and weighed just over 5lbs. Thin electrodes run across the wings, thin wires across the front and there is an aerofoil at the back.The wires in the front are positively charged to 20,000 volts, while the aerofoil in charged to negative 20,000 volts. The electric field that this creates produces an ionic wind which gives the plane thrust. This technique is similar to how ion engines are used in some instances to travel through space.
While this technology is very limited at present, Barrett is optimistic. “I don’t yet know whether you’ll see large aircrafts carrying people any time soon, but obviously I’d be very excited if that was the case,” Barrett said.
Check out an interview with Barrett here.