NASA engineers are working on a greener, more efficient, battery powered airplane, reported Design News. The electric plane, called the X-57, is nicknamed “Maxwell,” to honor John Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish physicist who worked in electromagnetism.
Because it is battery-run, the plane would eliminate carbon emissions and hopefully reduce the energy required for it to operate. A more efficient plane would mean shorter flight times, less fuel usage, and lower overall costs. The electric engines will be much quieter compared to conventional aviation engines.
The X-57 will be powered by 14 electric motors and thousands of lithium-ion cells. The battery pack makes up about a third of the plane’s weight. Design News says NASA is teaming up with battery contractor Electric Power Systems to employ “commercial off-the-shelf 18650-sized lithium-ion cells with specific energies of about 150-200 W-hr/kg.” These batteries will power 14 engines; 12 motors on the leading edge for takeoff and landings, and 2 on wings for use at cruise altitude. Sean Clarke, a co-principal investigator, says he wants hybrid technology to be available to commercial airlines by 2035.
NASA hopes that technologies developed in building the aircraft will be a starting point for similar technology for a wide range of airplanes.
For more information, check out the Design News article.
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