Aquifer: Flow Batteries and Rim-driven Motors

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, SAS, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

In a highly unusual approach, two NASA researchers have combined a flow battery system with a rim-driven propeller drive system.  Presenting at the Sustainable Aviation Symposium 2019 at UC Berkeley,Robert McSwain and Jason Lechniak detailed their AQUIFER Project, currently underway in the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. On Day  Two of the Symposium, Jason headed the presentation with a discussion of the implications of this and McSwain’s work on overall energy economy and NASA eVTOL discoveries.  Robert followed with a technical description of the Nano Electrofuel (NEF) Aqueous Flow Battery and Rim-driven Motor (RDM). “AQUIFER establishes technical feasibility of an early-stage technology, a high-energy density, aqueous-based, flow battery, resulting in a near-term increase of 1.7 …

Dante AeroNautical Distributes Power

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

In a dramatic rendering, Dante AeroNautical shows its DAX-19, a regional airliner that will distribute power along its wings, much like NASA’s X-57 Maxwell.  Dante describes the craft as representing, “The regional electric air travel of the future.” (In Dante’s web site, the triangle in place of the conventional “a” is the alchemical symbol for fire, or a clever marketing type’s attempt to draw our attention.) Helmut Penner, writing in Cockpit magazine, gives us the following: “Typically, small airlines make their aircraft purchases from major manufacturers, including the still-young Spanish low-cost airline Voltea, which operates 14 A319s and 17 Boeing 717s. But now [the company] is aiming for an ambitious project with the Dante AeroNautical, which is also based in …

SAS 2019 – Gabriel DeVault’s Clean Commute and Electric Adventures

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

An electric ultralight developer brought some hopeful notes to the Sustainable Aviation Symposium audience at the University of California Berkeley.  Gabriel DeVault is the powertrain development specialist for ZeroAvia, bringing hydrogen power to regional air commuting.  He does a lot of commuting in his own electric aircraft, showing that one doesn’t need huge investments in aircraft and infrastructure to enjoy green flight. The Paul MacCready Honorary Lecture: Doing More with Less, Right Now! An Aerospace Engineer and EV systems architect, Gabriel was a founding member of Zero Motorcycles, running R&D for the world’s largest and most successful electric motorcycle company.  He now works for ZeroAvia, a firm in Hollister, California working with a hydrogen-powered electric Piper Malibu as the first …

Simulations May Stimulate Better Hybrids

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Phillip Ansell, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois explains the benefits and downsides of fossil fuels. “Jet fuel and aviation gasoline are easy to store on an airplane. They are compact and lightweight when compared to the amount of energy they provide. Unfortunately, the actual combustion process is very inefficient. We’re harnessing only a small fraction of that energy but we currently don’t have electrical storage systems that can compete with that.” Ansell and colleagues are striving to use simulations to increase the range of hybrid aircraft.     Batteries provide their own set of problems. He explains that adding more batteries to go farther may have a certain logic, for …

NASA Freely Shares X57 Lessons

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

NASA and several partner firms have been working on the X-57 Maxwell electric propulsion demonstrator for the past several years.  It hasn’t been as easy as it looked at first.  Encouragingly, NASA is sharing some of the hard lessons it has learned in the process, much like Elon Musk sharing many of his patents with the world. One of the hardest lessons involved the multiple battery packs, originally planned to be off-the-shelf units.  A December 2016 test resulted in a thermal runaway, a situation in which one cell that overheats can self-destruct and cause adjacent cells to follow suit.  This, as we’ve seen in Dreamliner incidents, can be dangerous and potentially deadly.  Such fires are exceedingly well reported, with any Tesla …

Zunum Designs Electric Power Trains with a Software Approach

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Zunum is a startup electric airliner firm, helmed by former leaders in aerospace, electronics and software companies.  It’s no surprise, then, to see their design and manufacturing efforts following a path that blends those disciplines. Aviation Week reports Zunum just received an $800,000 matching grant from Washington State’s Clean Energy Fund, “its size proportionate to funding already raised from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures.”  It’s also the second largest of five such awards.  Zunum CEO Ashish Kumar describes the grant as, “a significant amount, a significant endorsement and a significant investment at a national level in electric aviation” that “supplements funds from out-of-state sources and will go toward prototype building.” Zunum presses forward on an aggressive schedule, with plans to certify its …

NASA’s Mark Moore Joins Uber

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You must really be somebody when Fortune Magazine notices you’re taking a new job.  Mark Moore is indeed somebody, and remarkably self-confident in leaving a 30-year NASA career to sign on to a startup – even if it is run by Uber.  He will be Director of Aviation for the on-demand ride company, tackling the problems inherent in taking such services into the third dimension. His decade-long work in electric propulsion for aircraft has led him to conceive of some interesting possibilities for Personal Air Vehicles, a term he engaged early.  His Puffin vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, for instance, seemed to use elements of Lockheed’s XFV-1 Pogo and Aerovironment’s Sky Tote – both tail sitters.  Ben Rich’s book, Skunk …