Stephen Barrett, Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, Professor discussed on BBC World Service


Fascinating development in aviation. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of technology or MIT have made the first ever flight of an electric airplane with no moving parts the craft is moved forward by what's called an ion drive and could mean a future of quieter and low emission aircrafts taking to the skies to find out how it works. I spoke to the MIT aerospace engineering, professor behind the project, Stephen Barrett. It's actually a little bit. Like ion drives that exist in space. So those happen use for several decades. But in this case the drive works in in the atmosphere and it works by ionizing air. So that means stripping electrons off of nitrogen molecules in air leaving behind positively charged nitrogen ions at once you've got something that's charged. It's possible to manipulate it or move it using an electric field. And that. That forces just like the force. You get if you rub it ballooning your head. And you find they can stick to things. So that electric sources, right? And this aircraft was in the f- about twelve seconds. And that's considered a success. Yes. So we flew it in in a sports hall, and that was about to sixty meter flight. Rich just the length of the sports hall and fluid ten times. So it could have flown further given the size of the hole that was the constraint. So there's no moving parts in this all propelled by the atmosphere. We all propelled by ionizing nitrogen, so stripping the electrons off of it, then using a strong electric field provided by a forty thousand volt power supply in order to accelerate those ions and create a what's called an Ionic wind that propels the vehicle along. Okay. So how close are we in terms of taking it to a bigger aircraft? And the future of ion drives, I suppose within the earth's atmosphere. So certainly nowhere near having people flying. These, but it might be feasible to imagine aeroplanes perhaps five or ten or fifteen meters across in wingspan flying in the reasoning near future unmanned, and they'd be serving purposes like environmental monitoring or traffic monitoring or purposes, we're having a silent aircraft. That's man might be useful. What inspired you Star Trek? Yes. It actually was started as a kid. I was actually inspired by the the silence. Shuffled traff that used to sort of blew in Nikolai by and I thought well, that's kind of how the future of aviation should look we shouldn't have Moisy repels and turbines, and we should have some sort of electrical way of doing this silently, and this aircraft had no noise at all. Did it? Well, you could hear very slight sort of electrical, but really very close to silent. And hopefully, we can engineer way that electrical imagine that that's the mitt aerospace engineering, professor Stephen Barrett. This has been Newsday with Connie and alad we're back on Monday..

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