Novel technology could combat flight pollution

Feb 9, 2015

Credit: ACHEON

By Marie Daniels

A breakthrough propulsion technology to provide greener air transport could be developed after the underlying engineering was declared a success.

ACHEON, involving six universities and two research organisations from across the EU, aimed to demonstrate the scientific feasibility of a novel propulsion method which is expected to overcome the main limitations of traditional systems related to jet deflection exhausts.

This is capable of directing the flow and pressure without any mechanical moving parts, which could see shorter take-off and landing, more comfortable and safe flight operations and greener propulsion.

This , funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, is an example of a project starting from an academic research basic which aims to produce an impact in terms of effective industrial innovation.


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6 comments on “Novel technology could combat flight pollution

  • The amount of fossil fuel you personally use on an air trip is surprisingly hefty. Everything you can do to help efficiency has a huge global effect. It would be nice to find some more details how this works.



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  • There was a link, the idea is to shoot lasers at it (they are thinking of spacecraft) the lasers heat and ablade a material on the surface which creates a plume behind it hence through equal opposite reaction propel it forwards. They are suggesting the lasers combine with rocket or gases escaping through nozzels which combined would improve the I’m far from an expert but quite a few practical problems strike me.

    You’d need to get sufficient power I suspect the lasers to be on the ground and therefore aimed at the craft which if you don’t hit the exact right bit will probably get very hot (not to mention any birds or other aircraft that might be in the way). If you had on board lasers you would need to carry a crap load of batteries and or some power source for the lasers. It looks like the sort of interesting research that will probably lead in some other useful direction but I wouldn’t hold my breath for laser powered flight any-time soon.



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  • The OP does not mention the fuel so it appears to be conventional hydrocarbon jet fuel.
    While greater efficiency will be slightly greener, to go the whole way requires new thinking.
    I don’t know if this exhaust system is compatible with Skylon, but Reaction Engines’ Sabre Engine is much greener, and probably powering a faster aircraft. http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/

    SABRE and Skylon were invented by Alan Bond and his team of engineers at the Abingdon, England-based Reaction Engines.

    SABRE burns hydrogen and oxygen. It acts like a jet engine in Earth’s thick lower atmosphere, taking in oxygen to combust with onboard liquid hydrogen. When SABRE reaches an altitude of 16 miles (26 kilometers) and five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), however, it switches over to Skylon’s onboard liquid oxygen tank to reach orbit. (Hypersonic flight is generally defined as anything that reaches at least Mach 5.)

    Two SABREs will power the Skylon space plane — a privately funded, single-stage-to-orbit concept vehicle t-hat is 276 feet (84 meters) long. At takeoff, the plane will weigh about 303 tons (275,000 kilograms) http://www.space.com/26838-air-force-hypersonic-skylon-space-plane.html

    While Skylon is a robot space-plane for carrying cargo to earth orbit, its engines could be used on some very fast aircraft which burn their fuel to water vapour.



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  • I found this (not that I understand much of it). I get the Coanda effect and the Homer nozzle, though I don’t get how to direct the jet without a moving part somewhere. The article mentions electric driven and and if the Coanda effect uses plasma to heat things up then possible maybe? Or I have completely got it wrong ( which I would not be surprised at)



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  • Reckless Monkey Feb 10, 2015 at 4:14 am

    There was a link, the idea is to shoot lasers at it (they are thinking of spacecraft) the lasers heat and ablade a material on the surface which creates a plume behind it hence through equal opposite reaction propel it forwards.

    Ground based lasers (on mountain tops), does away with carrying tanks of fuel and only requires propellant. The propellants I have seen suggested, (such as plastics) are pretty polluting.



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  • Alan4discussion #3
    Feb 10, 2015 at 6:03 am

    I don’t know if this exhaust system is compatible with Skylon,
    but Reaction Engines’ Sabre Engine is much greener,
    and probably powering a faster aircraft.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43732035

    Reaction Engines Limited (REL), the UK company developing a revolutionary aerospace engine, has announced investments from both Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

    REL, based at Culham in Oxfordshire, is working on a propulsion system that is part jet engine, part rocket engine.

    The company believes it will transform the space launch market and usher in hypersonic travel around the Earth.

    The new investments amount to £26.5m.

    Included in this sum are contributions from Baillie Gifford Asset Management and Woodford Investment Management.

    It lifts the total capital raised in the past three years to about £100m. The British government has already put in £60m. BAE Systems initially injected £20m in 2015 and has invested new funds in this latest financial round.

    “Rolls-Royce and Boeing – these are really big names, and it’s fantastic to be in this position,” said REL CEO Mark Thomas.

    “Rolls are super-positive about the technology. They want us to be independent and innovative, and to push our technology as hard as possible. And Boeing – that’s amazing. They are the world’s biggest aerospace company, have decades of expertise and future plans that, for us I’m sure, will be really exciting,” he told BBC News.

    REL is developing what it calls the Sabre engine. This power plant is designed to push a vehicle from a standing start all the way to orbit in a single step.

    It would work like a conventional jet engine up to about Mach 5.5 (5.5 times the speed of sound) before then transitioning to a rocket mode for the rest of the ascent.

    Key technologies include a compact pre-cooler heat-exchanger that can take an incoming airstream of over 1,000C and cool it to -150C in less than 1/100th of a second. This would permit Sabre to use oxygen direct from the atmosphere for combustion instead of carrying it in a tank with the weight penalty that implies.

    Although Sabre is usually talked about in the context of an orbiting spaceplane, it could also be fitted to a vehicle that flies at very high speed from point to point on the Earth’s surface.

    This is an application that clearly interests Boeing, whose investment arm, HorizonX Ventures, is driving the tie-up in what is its first investment in a UK-based company.



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