Airplanes are the most popular for of long distance travel, due to its speed and comfort level. However, because of this luxury of speed, it is one of the world’s worst offenders of atmospheric pollution. Originally, airplanes were an amazing technology that added a whole new dimension to travel and innovation. However, this also added the problem of finding an efficient way to power these machines. On a small scale, planes are not causing a lot of damage to the environment. Like a lot of things though, the rate and scale at which these things are being used. Compared to comparable forms of long distance travel (i.e. boat, car, train, etc.), the airplane is by far the most polluting. According to the attached article, a typical trans-American flight emits as much carbon dioxide as a an SUV/month. This creates a big dilemma: reduce the use of planes or make them more efficient. That’s where the college students and astrophysicists come in.
NASA and MIT are joining forces to create a greener, more efficient airplane.
The current design of airplanes has the engines placed on the wings of the plane. This creates a large drag on the plane causing a large excess of fuel.
The new design that NASA and MIT have come up with has moved the location of the engines in order to reduce this drag dramatically. The engines have been moved to the rear of the plane, on the tail. Due to the new shape of the engines, two partial cylinders, and them being placed side by side, the engines can take in additional, air than the older model was capable of.
The design allows for the intake of slower moving air, which previously would have simply caused drag on the the plane, wasting fuel. This plane will burn about 70 percent less fuel, which equates to about 75 percent less gases emitted into the atmosphere. In addition to the decreased fuel consumption, the plane will be much quieter and will not require as long of a runway for takeoffs and landings. The estimated flight day of this new design is 2035.
Because the new design saves so much money on gasoline, the price of tickets can decrease. Fuel costs can account for an estimated 35 percent of the cost of the ticket. This means that if fuel costs decrease by 70 percent, ticket prices can decrease as much as 25 percent (as long as the airlines decide to pass along savings to consumers…)