Duncan Lockerby, a professor at the University of Warwick, is experimenting with a new way to direct airflow off of a plane's wings to reduce mid-flight drag. Conceptual tests have shown that a reduction in that drag can significantly reduce fuel consumption and subsequently greenhouse gas emissions.
The design concept consists of tiny air-powered jets along each of a plane's wings, or possibly even the length of the entire plane, that redirect airflow in a perpendicular direction from the plane's direction of motion. Lockerby has received $1.6 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council and Airbus to further develop his design and conduct wind tunnel tests.
Lockerby discovered the reduction in drag by waggling a piece of wing from side to side in a wind tunnel. He explains that when a plane is in cruise control mode, it's only really burning fuel to overcome drag, therefore reducing the drag by 20 percent would reduce fuel use by the same percentage. Lockerby believes his design could reduce drag by as much as 40 percent.
His tests will explore ways of pushing the airflow sideways through both active means and passive ones, where no power is required. New wings should be ready for trials by 2012.
written by Fred, June 30, 2009
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