NASA Develops Aircraft that Uses Half Less Fuel

NASA develops aircraft that uses half less fuel
NASA has developed a manufacturing method for wing-shaped aircraft, which when combined with a jet engine called “ultra-high bypass ratio engine”, promises to cut fuel consumption by half.

Scientists have long known the benefits if a wing-shaped aircraft compared to the conventional tube and wing design. The flying wing design came to be known through the B2 Stealth Bomber although the patent for a tailless plane was filed by Hugo Junkers in 1910.

Some of the benefits of the design include reduced structural material resulting in significantly lower overall aircraft weight, and more lift generated by more dramatic wing surface and curvature. The challenge of the design so far is aircraft control during lower speeds. The flatter design has proven to be more challenging to support a pressurized cabin. Conventional tubular designs are easier to manufacture to support extreme temperature differences.

The scientific advancement by NASA is in the manufacturing process, potentially opening the door to commercial manufacture in eight to ten years.

“NASA’s manufacturing process starts with preformed carbon composite rods. The rods are covered with carbon fiber fabric and stitched into place. Fabric is then stitched over foam strips to create cross members. The fabric is impregnated with an epoxy to create a rigid composite structure.” Tech Review

Aside from strength and reduced weight, the carbon fiber stitching process appears to prevent more catastrophic events in flight.  When pressured to the degree of breakage, the stitching prevents cracks from spreading.  With recent failures in the most expensive aircraft ever built, the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner”, a safer design will be welcomed by consumers.

The new design is a result of a $300 million partnership between NASA, Pratt & Whitney and Boeing.  Since Boeing doesn’t convince the powers that be to include a lithium ion battery in the design, everything should work out.

The new engine design will be used in the first commercial manufacturing process next year. It promises to dramatically reduce CO2, NOx emission and manufacture cost.  The ultra-high bypass ratio engine promises to change transportation emissions significantly as it makes its way into the commercial airline fleet.

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