MIT Engineers Create Concept Hybrid-Electric Plane to Address Aviation Pollution

by Arun

According to MIT news, engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have recently come up with “a concept for airplane propulsion that they estimate would eliminate 95 percent of aviation’s NOx emissions, and thereby reduce the number of associated early deaths by 92 percent.”

The aviation industry has had a strong history of pollution, with the rise only slated to continue. Scientists estimate that aviation, left unchecked,  will generate approximately 43 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2050. Furthermore, according to WorldWildLife, if air pollution was a nation, it would be one of the top 10 carbon-pollution nations on the planet. With the world shifting to renewable and alternative forms of energy in other methods of transportation such as automobiles, scooters, and even trains, it was inevitable a shift would soon come to the ever-growing aviation industry. 

So what have the researchers come up with?

The researchers have developed a unique hybrid-electric design where a plane’s conventional gas turbine would be integrated within the plane’s cargo hold. This would allow it so that “rather than directly powering propellers or fans, the gas turbine would drive a generator also in the hold, to produce electricity, which would then electrically power the plane’s wing-mounted, electrically driven propellers or fans.” As a result, the gas-produced emissions would clean the exhaust before ejecting it into the atmosphere. In this regard, the plane would be able to be more fuel efficient and be more eco-friendly.

Steven Barrett, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT cautions that “this would still be a tremendous engineering challenge,” yet still is very optimistic about the viability of the project. Assuming the system will be widely accepted, the engineers estimate that about 92 percent of pollution-related aviation deaths would be effectively eliminated.

As technology advances and renewable energy becomes more widespread, economized, and accepted, the future looks bright as industries start shifting towards greener alternatives, with the possibilities growing endlessly.

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