MIT and NASA combine forces to create greener airplanes
Researchers developing a more eco-friendly aircraft to take to the skies.
Fri, May 21, 2010 at 12:28 AM
Experts estimate that airplanes will be one of the largest contributors to global warming by the year 2050. A recent story in USA Today reports than an average flight from New York to Denver emits per customer what an SUV emits in a month. Airplanes dump millions of pounds of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere. Luckily, this soon may change. DiscoveryNews reports that NASA recently commissioned a completely new kind of green airplane.
Researchers at MIT are currently developing the 180-passenger D “double bubble” series for NASA. This plane will be designed for domestic flights and is meant to replace the Boeing 737 class aircraft. The mechanics of this plane are what make it eco-friendly. The way planes are currently built, air flows directly into the aircraft’s engines on its wings. This drags on the plane and requires more fuel to be burned.
But MIT’s planes place the engines on the tail of the aircraft. It will have two partial cylinders placed side by side that look like bubbles. This will create less drag on the airplane as it will be taking in slow-moving air caused by the wake of the fuselage. That means it will take less fuel to get the plane to go the same distance. The MIT plane will be much quieter than current aircraft, burning 70 percent less fuel and emitting 75 percent less gases. It will also be able to take off from shorter runways. Researchers estimate that the first airplanes will be able to fly by 2035.
That the new plane will burn less fuel is good news for the environment and flyers. DiscoveryNews reports that 35 percent of the current price of an airline ticket is fuel costs. This means that if fuel prices were cut as much as 70 percent, the price of tickets should go down by 25 percent — that's assuming the airlines choose to share the wealth with their customers.
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