experimental plane X-57, Developed by NASA, will fly for the first time this year. Along the wings are his impressive 14 propellers, powered entirely by electricity. This is great considering the growing demand for aviation despite having to use fossil fuels. But how close will NASA’s planes bring us to this goal?
Finding alternatives to aviation fuels such as kerosene is key if you want to keep flying. Using the X-57 Lithium battery It drives the electric motor for the propeller. However, the energy obtained from a battery, relative to its weight, is 50 times less than that obtained from aviation fuel.
The X-57 is a modified four-seat Italian-made aircraft. Tecnam P2006T aircraftIt relies on a combination of numerous propellers, small motors and numerous batteries spread throughout the aircraft. “Decentralized Promotion”This approach represents an exciting area of research and development found in many experimental electric aircraft designs.
What makes the X-57 different is the wing has been completely redesigned with propellers positioned to optimize airflow around the wing. When you don’t need the propeller, the blades can be folded to reduce drag.
In general, propeller technology is being reborn.Design is becoming more than just a thing more efficientNot only is it less noisy, it’s more affordable. The propeller speed and pitch angle can also be changed during flight to adapt to different aircraft speeds required for takeoff, landing, and cruising.
Air density varies with altitude and affects the thrust available from the propeller. Now that you can create propellers that work effectively at all altitudes and speeds, you can make the most of the energy stored in your batteries.New designs such as his 11 blades for the first time ever Propeller (Piper Cheyenne in an airplane), which can achieve very high thrust even with high air densities.
Some aircraft use “vectored thrust” by rotating motors and propellers. Vertical take-off option and landing. These aircraft could resemble helicopters more than airplanes, and traditional airports with long runways and large terminals could be a thing of the past.
The X-57 uses a commercially available lithium-ion battery. This is because the project is primarily concerned with new propeller and wing configuration possibilities rather than the development of a complete battery.
However, this will be a significant challenge for electric aircraft developers to overcome. The lithium battery is the best one yet, but it’s still heavy. Lithium metal is also dangerous because it ignites easily.
There are advantages to using batteries. Its weight remains constant during flight, so it does not need to be stored on the wing like traditional aviation fuel. Using liquid fuel significantly reduces the weight of the plane as the fuel is consumed, and keeping the fuel in the wings ensures that the balance of the aircraft remains unchanged.
But it really energy density – The amount of energy a battery contains relative to its weight or size – is important. New technologies are constantly being developed, such as batteries that apply quantum technology.but between these Charges faster than regular batteries They won’t replace lithium batteries and are unlikely to change the outlook for electric flight.
What we are really waiting for is a revolution in battery technology that will deliver energy densities that rival aviation fuel.
Is the X-57 the future?
The X-57 has a range of about 160 km and a flight time of about 1 hour, so it is not considered an alternative technology for long-range flights. at least soon. Alternatively, short-haul flights with 10 or so passengers might be good targets for early battery-powered flights.
Hydrogen-powered aircraft are also of great interest, as the energy density of hydrogen is about three times that of conventional aviation fuel. However, hydrogen is a gas and must be stored in pressurized fuel tanks to reduce its volume.
This requires a complete rethink of aircraft design. Several studies have been performed using hydrogen stored as a liquid at -253°C. for aeronautical hydrogen So exciting, but perhaps unrealistic.
Synthetic fuels are a ready-to-use alternative to aviation fuels, but they are more expensive. Perhaps as technology develops they will get cheaper, but the cost of flying could increase as we move away from fossil fuels.In the near future, batteries will almost certainly power short-haul flights. Yes, a revolution in battery technology would completely change the future of aviation.
Ultimately, you’re faced with an ultimatum: find a way to build a plane that doesn’t need fossil fuels, or stop flying.
Hugh HuntProfessor of Engineering Mechanics and Vibration, Cambridge University
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