With the shift in paradigm, scientists nowadays are working very hard to develop technologies that are environmentally friendly. Researches and studies are focusing to undo and minimize the harmful effects of technologies against the environment. One such project is ERO robot that recycles concrete and the Project Zero Electric Plane.
NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project fits this paradigm. The ERA aim’s to reduce aircraft emissions, noise and fuel consumption. The EAR inspired engineering students from the University of Virginia to focus their efforts into simulation of an environmentally friendly plane. Led by aerospace engineering students, Sohail Ahmad and Kelly Thomas, the team of undergraduates used Flight Optimization System (FLOPS) to check and evaluate designs which are based on propulsion systems and airplanes which are active today. The whole study aimed to find out if a hybrid – internal combustion engine and electric motor – is feasible for passenger aircraft.
The team tested an ATR 42-600 plane using batteries in takeoff and in landing because they take place in congested areas while the internal combustion engine (ICE) will be in charge while the plane is on flight. While on flight, ICE will be charging the batteries for landing. The ATR 42-600 is a twin turbo propeller commercial aircraft and can carry 48 persons. The team converted the model to a hybrid.
The team used two methods; series and parallel. In the series system, ICE charge the batteries and powers an electric generator which in turn runs the motor. While the parallel system works by having the propeller powered by either the ICE and/or electric motor. Their findings was that the parallel system was more efficient for their design and project.
The modeling the team did in FLOPS gave them the specifics for the batteries that they will need. The batteries are very crucial to the project. The team had to consider carefully factors that include the power to weight ration and life of battery. Also, they needed enough energy to provide a thrust of more than 6,000 lbs at a speed of 368 km/hr. So, the team needed a 1500 kW per engine. After a careful study, the team’s final choice was a Lithium polymer battery which totals a weight of less than 13,000 lbs.
The result of their simulations, the team found out that using their modification approach for an aircraft design to work ICE would be much more fuel efficient for distances up to 300 miles and is very helpful to the environment. The team also acknowledged that retrofitting the current technology will not be very fruitful but they believe and confident that using the current technology to design an aircraft specifically for hybrid propulsion system would be the answer.
Research and studies are in progress for this ambitious project. We wish them good luck and hope that they would find the best solutions to create the first hybrid aircraft sometime in the near future.
Play the video to see how NASA and Boeing is working to make the first electric plane.
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