MIT Unveils Design for Hybrid-Electric Airliner

Hybrid Plane

A team of engineers at MIT has created a concept for a hybrid-electric plane that could reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to smog and acid rain, by 95 percent.

Nitrogen oxides have also been shown to be associated with respiratory diseases and cardiovascular disorders, resulting in about 16,000 deaths a year, according to an MIT blurb. A 95 percent reduction in these emissions could cut those deaths by 92 percent, saving tens of thousands of lives annually.

“This would still be a tremendous engineering challenge, but there aren’t fundamental physics limitations,” said Steven Barrett, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, in the statement. “If you want to get to a net-zero aviation sector, this is a potential way of solving the air pollution part of it, which is significant, and in a way that’s technologically quite viable.”

Almost Electric

While the new hybrid-electric plane’s main source of thrust is still a conventional gas turbine — in this case located in the cargo hold, not on the wings themselves — such a turbine would drive a generator to produce electricity instead. This energy would then power wing-mounted electric propellers.

The turbine’s emissions would also be further cut through the use of an emissions-control system, like the ones found on modern heavy-duty diesel trucks.

No Limits

According to Barrett, the concept is one possible answer to the fact that battery technology simply isn’t there yet for larger aircraft. Electrifying them “won’t happen anytime soon without pretty major breakthroughs in battery technology,” Barrett said.

While the extra heft of the hybrid-electric system would require 0.6 percent more fuel to fly a converted Boeing 737 or Airbus A320, emissions would be cut significantly thanks to the emissions control system.

READ MORE: Concept for a hybrid-electric plane may reduce aviation’s air pollution problem [MIT News]

More on electric planes: Watch the World’s Largest Electric Plane Take to the Skies

Latest articles

B.C. gets 1 million calls within 1st hour of opening phone lines to vaccine appointments for elderly

Call centres in British Columbia received a million calls in the first hour after they opened to receive COVID-19 vaccine appointments for some of the province's...

New CDC guidance lets fully vaccinated people meet without masks

As the pace of coronavirus vaccinations picks up, normal life is looking tantalizingly in reach. Nearly a year after the World Health Organization...

Hubble Space Telescope in safe mode after software glitch

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is taking an unexpected break.The iconic observatory went into a protective "safe mode" early Sunday morning (March 7), but...

Related articles

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here