Researchers at MIT say they have come up with designs for a new generation of passenger aircraft that could use as much as 70 percent less fuel than today’s airliners.
MIT said that its designs for a so-called “N+3″ airplane–meaning three generations beyond today’s airplanes–could leverage new technologies like advanced airframe configurations and propulsion systems and could deliver the 70 percent fuel savings by around 2035.
Instead of using a single fuselage cylinder, MIT engineers used two partial cylinders placed side by side to create a wider structure whose cross-section resembles two bubbles joined together. They also moved the engines from the usual wing-mounted locations to the rear of the fuselage. Unlike the engines on most transport aircraft that take in the high-speed, undisturbed air flow, the engines take in slower moving air that is present in the wake of the fuselage. Known as the Boundary Layer Ingestion (BLI), this technique allows the engines to use less fuel for the same amount of thrust, although the design has several practical drawbacks, such as creating more engine stress.
Planes built with the MIT designs will likely be as much as 10 percent slower, but that time loss could be offset by quicker loading and unloading due to the planes’ wider bodies.
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