Is Ionic Propulsion Plausible?

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Ethan Krauss responds to MIT’s Ionic Flyer Coverage There seems to be great interest in ionic propulsion.  After we published “MIT’s Ionic Flyer – Solid State All the Way,” our editorial offices (otherwise known as your editor’s kitchen) received a comment from Ethan Krauss, who corrected the historical record.  He explains, “MIT was NOT “the first ion propelled aircraft of any kind to carry their power supply, as their video and paper say.  They don’t use less voltage, they are not more efficient, they are not the largest. Size was not the limit in the past.” Click on image to see video of MIT’s first flights. “They are the second in the world to be able to claim that they …

Pipistrel, Honeywell Sign MOU

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The fun part of writing this blog is receiving news of hopeful aspirations and plans for a thriving future. Taja Boscarol, one of the founders of Pipistrel, shared such news this week. “It is my greatest pleasure and honor to announce that Pipistrel and Honeywell signed an MOU(Memo of Understanding) regarding collaboration on aircraft technologies for urban air mobility.” The Slovenian/American joint venture headlined its press release, “PIPISTREL AND HONEYWELL COLLABORATE ON AIRCRAFT TECHNOLOGIES FOR URBAN AIR MOBILITY,” with the multi-faceted secondary headline, “Pipistrel and Honeywell combine aerospace expertise to address the technical, regulatory and business challenges of the emerging on-demand mobility market.”  eVTOL News lists over 140 electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft on its web site.  Early in …

MIT’s Ionic Flyer – Solid State All the Way

Dean Sigler Announcements, Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Aircraft Materials, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

This week, a kerfuffle tsunami has swept through the aeronautical press, with the announcement by Steven Barret of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that he has flown an ion-powered airplane that “doesn’t depend on fossil fuels or batteries.”*  (A minor point – the airplane does have a battery that gets its output voltage ramped up by a custom power supply.) Five years ago, your editor reported on ionic thrusters, several of which were being tested by Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. These little devices have great promise for moving vehicles in space, where the vacuum presents no aerodynamic drag to overcome. Even a small nudge from a thruster in space will cause a vehicle to accelerate. They …

Richard Glassock, Jeff Zaltman and Air Race E

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Richard Glassock and Beacons of Excellence Richard Glassock is an Australian scholar and designer currently living in Nottingham, England, working as a Professor at the University of Nottingnam.  One if the founding lights in the Outback Joe competions, in which teams launched autonomuous aircraft into remote parts of Australia to find the eponymous character and deliver aid, he was on the forefront of things to come. Later, he designed a twin-motored sailplane to take parties of six or eight to cloudbase, a perfect outing for kid’s parties or adult’s anniversary celebrations.  He was part of a team that designed a modern hybrid parachute jump plane, optimized for rapid turnarounds.  His motorcycle range extender would enable a pilot to ride to …

The C4V Battery – Solid-State in Production?

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Jeffrey Engler of Wright Electric posted an item about Charge CCCV, LLC (C4V) which “demonstrated a prototype of its new Solid State Battery (SSB) at the NY BEST 2018 Fall Conference in New York.  The Company’s SSB solution delivers higher performance, higher density, lower cost batteries that promise to require significantly less charging time than others.”  The startup announced a 380 Watt-hour-per-kilogram battery already in production.  Since your editor tends to become a bit snarky about the usual two-to-five-year period of anticipation before these numbers become reality, he rushed to check out the claims. Plausible Numbers, but Uncertain Time Frame The firm’s numbers are not wildly excessive, and they seem to be getting funding and finding partnerships with established companies.  …

Carbon Fiber and the Grand Unified Airplane

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Your editor has long held the belief that we are on the threshold of creating a Grand Unified Airplane, a craft that would draw all its energy from solar cells, the flexing of its wings, the air passing over its form, and the very act of flight itself.  It seems to become less of a science fiction ideal and more of real-world possibility every day.  Carbon fiber could be part of that possibility. What if your airplane were its own battery?  Think of the weight savings and potential endurance and range.  Your editor became fascinated with 2010 research done by Dr. Emile Greenhalgh of Imperial University in London, who developed a structural sandwich with carbon fiber outer layers and a …

Promising 3D Printed Microlattice Battery

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The three biggest words in battery structures are “Area, Area, Area.”  The more anode and cathode area a battery can expose to the electrolyte that carries ions and electrons between the positive and negative ends of the battery, the better.  Most battery configurations, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Missouri University of Science and Technology, block a great deal of interaction between these elements.  Their solution is to go porous in a microlattice battery, thanks to 3D printing. Electrodes present some surface area to the electrolyte, which can only interact with the surface area presented.  Rahul Panat at Carnegie Mellon and Jonghyun Park at Missouri S & T have created a cube-shaped battery composed of microlattice electrodes which …

Wireless Charging for Drones

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In its introduction, Global Energy Transmission Corporation (GET) promises virtually indefinite flight for multi-rotor aircraft.  “GET re-invents [the] commercial drone industry providing [a] technical solution to power drones in 24×7 mode around dedicated area[s]. An electrically powered drone can recharge and fly indefinitely via efficient safe high power in-flight rapid recharging in a GET power hotspot. The company’s distance wireless charging technologies uniquely enable drone delivery and many other industrial applications.and many other industrial applications.”  This wireless charging concept goes back a long way. Tesla’s Dream In the film The Prestige, key parts center on visits to Nikola Tesla’s laboratory in upstate New York, where the tower that dominates the grounds was one of his dreams.  Although never completed in …

Liquid Batteries for Aircraft?

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NASA is investigating “the integration of nanoelectrofuel (NEF) flow batteries with rim-driven electric motors to produce a safe, clean and quiet propulsion system for aircraft,” according to Aviation Week. That is the promise of an early-stage rechargeable liquid battery technology under investigation by NASA. The agency is researching the integration of NEF flow batteries with rim-driven electric motors to produce a safe, clean and quiet propulsion system for aircraft.  The rim-driven motors are used on boats as thrusters, and may have applications on small unmanned aircraft, although researchers have seen disappointing results so far. Tying these motors to more promising research into” non-explosive energy storage technology” is part of NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Aqueous Quick-Charging Battery Integration for Flight …

Coots and e-Gulls at Oshkosh

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Lead image shows Mark Beierle in the Soaring Gull of his design with which he accompanied Richard Steeves to Oshkosh. As many readers know, Richard Steeves, a physician and teacher at the University of Wisconsin – Madison is also a builder and long-time advocate for an amphibious aircraft called the Coot.  He publishes the Coot Builders Newsletter and stages a recurring AirVenture event, a yearly get-together of fellow Coot builders.  Recently, he got into electric aviation and has built and flies Bravo, an e-Gull designed by Mark Beierle.  Richard’s newsletter now features articles about amphibians and electric flight. Mark showed up at Richard’s hangar at the Sauk Prairie Airport, a lovely stretch of green bordered by hangars and bisected by …