A unique concept for airplane structure was recently displayed at a TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Airbus has developed a revolutionary design for a new way to build aircraft that in theory would dramatically cut the amount of fuel needed to run the craft. Bastian Schaefer, an engineer for Airbus, spoke about his concept at the annual TEDGlobal (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference.
Science fiction meets modern ingenuity
This new design turns the standard shell walls of an airplane into a web-like skeleton structure that would be formed by 3D-printed carbon nanotubes. A carbon nanotube is a form of carbon fiber and this material is not only strong and lightweight, but also a thermal and electrical conductor. This new shell design is also transparent, which would allow passengers to better view the skies around them.
Other changes include an upward curve to the tail of the plane, which would send the noise from the engines up instead of down towards earth, reducing noise pollution. The inside of the plane also received a drastic makeover. The seats would mold themselves to the passengers, creating a more comfortable cushion. There would also be an area for passengers to play games and sports.
One possible change might also be replacing the small jet doors with wider openings and passengers would leave their carry-on luggage at the entrance when they boarded the plane. Then the luggage would be delivered to the passenger’s seat. This would help to keep the aisles clear by erasing the time it takes passengers to stow luggage in the overhead compartments. Taking care of all the luggage at once would speed up the boarding process.
This new design and innovative changes were sparked by the growing demand for alternative energy sources. Knowing that oil reserves will deplete at some point, engineers are searching for ways to run aircraft other than the fuel that is now used. By making aircrafts lighter, they would require less fuel until an alternative source of energy is found and put to use.
Inspiring future innovators
Along with developing their own new designs, Airbus has also challenged others to come up with their own creative ideas for the future of aviation. Some of the top ideas picked by the company were changing the make-up and design of airplane engines to alter the airflow and reduce noise pollution. Another idea was to store luggage on a bed of air, lightening the weight load on the plane and reducing the amount of fuel needed. A third idea was the use of methane as a source of energy.