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MIT and NASA engineers are demonstrating a new kind of wing of an airplane

  MIT and NASA engineers demonstrate a new type of wing of a plane
A new way of manufacturing aircraft wings can contribute to new designs such as this concept, which can be more effective for some applications. Credit: Eli Gershenfeld, NASA Ames Research Center

A team of engineers built and tested a radically new kind of wing of an airplane, assembled from hundreds of tiny identical pieces. The wings can change the shape to control the flight of the aircraft, and can provide a significant increase in airplane production, flight and service efficiency, say researchers.

A new approach to the design of the wing can allow greater flexibility in the design and production of future aircraft. The new wing design has been tested in the NASA aerodynamic tube and described today in the Smart Materials and Structures magazine, co-authored by engineer-researcher Nicholas Kramer from NASA Ames in California; MIT graduate Kenneth Cheung SM & # 39; 07 Doctor of Philosophy & # 39; 1

2, now at NASA Ames; Benjamin Jenett, postgraduate student at the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms; and eight others.

Instead of requiring separate moving surfaces, such as elephants, to control the plane's shaft and pitch, as the conventional wings do, the new assembly system allows deforming the entire wing or its parts to include in its structure a mixture of rigid and flexible components. The tiny knots, connected with each other, form an open, lightweight lattice frame, then coated with a thin layer of similar polymeric material, like a skeleton.

The result is a wing that is much lighter and, therefore, much more energy. are more effective than those with conventional designs made of metal or composites, say researchers. Since the structure consisting of thousands of tiny triangles of such racks consists essentially of empty space, it forms a mechanical "metamaterial" that combines the structural rigidity of a gum-like polymer and extraordinary ease and low density of an aerogel

Jenett explains that for each of the phases flight – take-off and landing, cruise, maneuvering, etc. – each has its own different set of optimal wing parameters, so the usual wing is definitely a compromise that is not optimized for any of them and therefore the victims away efficiency. A warp that is constantly deformed can provide a much better approximation of the best configuration for each stage.

  Engineers at MIT and NASA demonstrate a new form of wing of the aircraft
. . The wings were tested in a NASA aerodynamic tube. Credit: Kenny Cheung, NASA Ames Research Center

Although it would be possible to include motors and cables to produce the forces needed to deform the wings, the team made it one step further and designed a system that automatically responds to changes in aerodynamic load conditions, changing its shape –

"We are able to Getting the efficacy by matching shapes with loads at different angles of attack, "says Craimer, chief author of the article. "We are able to produce exactly the same behavior that you would do actively, but we did it passively."

This is all due to the careful design of the relative positions of the racks with a different amount of flexibility or stiffness, designed in this way. that a wing, or its parts, is bent in concrete ways in response to special types of stresses.

Cheung and others demonstrated the basic principle several years ago, producing a wing about a meter long, comparable to the size of a typical model of airplane remote control. The new version, about a half times longer, comparable in size to the wing of this single-spacecraft and can be easy to manufacture.

Although this version was manually assembled by a postgraduate team, the recurring process was designed to be easy to implement by swarming small, simple, autonomous assembly robots.

  MIT and NASA engineers display a new kind of wing of the aircraft
For testing purposes, this initial wing was assembled manually, but future versions may be assembled by specialized miniature robots. Credit: Kenny Cheung, NASA Ames Research Center

Separate parts for the previous wing were cut using a hydroabrasive cutting system, and each part took some minutes, says Janett. The new system uses pressure-casting with a polyethylene resin in a complex 3-D form, and produces each part, in essence, a hollow cube, which consists of spacers of the size of match grinds along each edge – in just 17 seconds, he says, giving a long time .

"Now we have a way of producing," he says. While there is a prior investment in tooling, once done, "parts are cheap," he says. "We have boxes and boxes out of them, all the same."

As a result of the grating, he said, has a density of 5.6 kg per cubic meter. For comparison, rubber has a density of about 1500 kilograms per cubic meter. "They have the same rigidity, but we have less than about one thousandth density," says Janett.

Since the overall configuration of a wing or other structure is constructed from tiny divisions, it does not really matter what shape. "You can do any geometry that you want," he says. "The fact that most aircraft have the same shape" – in fact, a pipe with wings – is due to costs. This is not always the most effective form. "But massive investment in design, tools and production processes facilitates long-lasting work with long-established configurations.

Studies have shown that an integrated body and wing structure can be much more effective for many applications, and with this [19659022] MIT and NASA engineers demonstrate a new type of wing of a plane ” title=”Artists concept shows integrated wing-body aircraft, enabled by the new construction method being assembled by a group of specialized robots, shown in orange. Credit: Eli Gershenfeld, NASA Ames Research Center”/>

The concept of artists shows integrated wing and body planes that are provided with a new construction method. A group of specialized robots shown in orange. IT: Eli Gershenfeld, NASA Ames Research Center

"The research shows the promise of lowering costs and improving productivity for large, light, rigid structures," says Daniel Campbell, a researcher at Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company that was not involved in this study. "The most promising examples in the near future are constructive applications for airships and space structures such as antennas."

The new wing was designed to be placed in NASA's high-speed aerodynamic tube at the Langley Research Center.

One and the same system can also be used to create other structures, says Janet, including wing-like blades of wind turbines, where the ability to do on – Mounting nodes can avoid the problems of transporting longer blades. Similar assemblies are being developed for the construction of space structures and may be useful for bridges and other high-performance structures.

Wing "Morphing" can provide more efficient production and flight of the aircraft

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This story is published in the MIT (web.mit.edu/newsoffice/), a popular site that covers research, innovation and MIT news

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