The team said that the electro-aerodynamic-powered aircraft uses a propulsion system to fly, which opens up possibilities for ‘quieter, mechanically simpler’ aircraft that do not generate fossil fuel emissions.
Aerospace engineer Steven Barrett recently tested the first-ever aircraft powered by ionic wind thrusters, electric motors that produce momentum by generating charged particles and shooting them off.
According to Barrett, using this concept to fly an aircraft has long been a’ far-fetched idea’ and the stuff of science fiction. He still wanted to try, however.
They were building the aircraft from 2016-2018. That means, over the course of two years. It has a wingspan of 5 meters and weighs around 2.45 kilograms.
It has a variety of thin electrodes running through its wings, and thin wires at the front. There is an aerofoil at the back. The thin wires on the front have a positive charge of 20,000 volts.
At the rear, the aerofoil gets to negative 20,000 volts, producing a powerful electric field. Electrons are separated from the nitrogen molecules in the air at the front to create ions. And they generate an ionic wind as they accelerate towards the rear, which gives the plane thrust.
Here’s what it looks like:
Even though the aircraft is still just a prototype, scientists believe the prospects for the future are very exciting.