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Electric Jet Planes With Superconducting Generators

Are electric jet planes possible? In a recent paper, CA Luongo and PJ Masson have written a paper with their colleagues that posits that superconducting machines are the only viable way to get the power densities needed for electric aeropropulsion.


(Aircraft electric drive - electrical ducted fan [pdf])

Relentless growth in air traffic poses the question of how to achieve a more sustainable way of keeping humankind flying without further environmental damage, and especially in a fuel-efficient manner... Superconducting rotating machines (motors and generators) are destined to play a key role in this conversion as the enabling technology that will allow this conversion to electric propulsion within the very stringent weight and volume constraints imposed by an airborne application. Through our multi-disciplinary collaboration we were able to assess, for the first time, the feasibility of non-conventional aircraft architectures based on superconducting electric propulsion.

...superconducting machines have already achieved power densities comparable to turbine engines. To fully enable electric flight however, power densities need to improve even further, which is only possible with all-superconducting machines. We developed design concepts for revolutionary aircraft using superconducting machines for propulsion and showed that with further development in superconducting and cryocooling technologies, all within reach, superconductivity- enabled flight could be a reality within the next 20 years.


(Two views of a sixteen-fan hybrid wing body [pdf]
aircraft and a cross section of one of the
superconducting-motor-driven fans in its duct)

John W. Campbell thought about the idea of an aircraft with electric propulsion in his 1930 novel The Black Star Passes. But even Campbell (as far as I know) didn't think that an electric generator could power a plane - he was thinking about solar-powered planes.

From Next Generation More-Electric Aircraft: A Potential Application for HTS Superconductors via Next Big Future.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/26/2009)

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