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Futuristic Plane Equipped With Ion Drive And No Moving Parts Takes Flight In MIT Lab

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has successfully launched a battery-operated prototype that flew quietly without any moving parts.   ( Mit.edu )

Unlike most planes that require turbines and fans to fly, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's recent breakthrough is one that has no moving parts — like it came out from the sci-fi film Star Trek.

Scientists have successfully flown a light, silent plane that did not use moving parts, which made quite an irritating sound. To replace these components, the team used a technology called "ionic wind" to power the creation, which utilizes ions that thrusts and sustains the whole flight without any noise.

"It's taken nine years of work to get here, and it's a hundred years since the ionic wind was first discovered," Professor Steven Barrett, the lead researcher, said.

Indeed, the introduction of the idea of incorporating ionic wind system to an aircraft had been done a long time ago, though it was only now that a solid-state plane with the technology has successfully flown. Early research didn't believe that the system was capable of propelling a small aircraft and sustaining the flight.

Tip Of The Iceberg

The MIT engineers didn't only make a revolutionary plane, they also made a significant contribution to the industry. When the Wright Brothers first successfully launched their airplane 100 years ago, it needed fossil fuel-powered moving parts, but with the latest news, there are a lot of possibilities on the horizon.

The researchers hope that this will be a good start in further discoveries for a better aviation industry, including more silent drones and emission-free passenger aircraft. These do not just benefit the customers who usually become irate with the loud buzzing noise, it also pushes forward the fight against greenhouse gases.

'Star Trek'-inspired

At first glance, it seemed it's pretty much lifted from a sci-fi film. Well, it is, as the lead inventor said he took the idea from the Star Trek films and series, which Barrett used to watch when he was a child. He had high interest over the high-tech spacecraft, which he specifically noted moved silently.

The MIT researchers launched a 16-foot, 5-pound prototype in the gym hall that had sustained flying at 197 feet without any assistance. The plane had thin wires that are underneath the front-end wings, where sufficient current passes through.

One of the problems that the team encountered was crafting a power supply that can generate up to 40,000 volts. The group is further looking into other means to produce ionic wind without needing high voltage.

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