Gallery: MIT Team Unveils Airplane that Uses 70 Percent Less Fuel

 

Today a team of researchers at MIT unveiled their latest feat of engineering — an airplane that uses 70% less fuel than conventional aircraft. The MIT team was one of six groups — and the only university led team — across the US chosen by NASA to help redesign current aircraft to increase fuel efficiency, lower emissions and allow planes to take off on shorter runways. The team accomplished all of NASA’s set goals with their innovative D-series plane, lovingly referred to as the “double bubble”.

NASA is calling this government-funded initiative the “N+3″, signifying that the planes are meant to revolutionize the aircraft industry in three generations. MIT, Boeing, GE Aviation and Northrop Grumman were given the task of rethinking the subsonic commercial aircraft market while teams from Boeing and Lockheed-Martin were entrusted with creating supersonic commercial aircraft — passenger planes traveling faster than the speed of sound! NASA’s goals were to reduce fuel consumption while taking into account that in 3 decades air traffic is set to double. Now that the designs have been revealed the teams are awaiting news in the next few months of which designs will receive funding to go on to the second phase of the program.

MIT designed their D-series as a 180 passenger aircraft meant to replace the domestic 737 market. Conventional airplanes utilize a single fuselage design, while the D-series uses two partial tubular shapes placed beside each other — which accounts for the bubble nickname. The plane utilizes a host of technological advances to decrease its fuel consumption. It has thinner longer wings and a smaller tail and engine placement at the rear of the plane instead of on the wings. All of these features account for part of the reduction in fuel usage. The MIT team also unveiled their H-series — a “hybrid wing body” plane that seats 350 passengers and could replace the 777 overseas market. NASA expects designs from this program to take flight in 2035.

+ MIT

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21 Comments

  1. SpotOn June 28, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I agree with EzEzz – why does this take so long to get to market? If you were designing a new business model for the web or mobile you better have it done in a few months or someone will eat your lunch.

    I get that it has to be rigoriously tested, approved by the FAA for passenger safety, blah blah but 5 years sounds like plenty of time not 25!!!

  2. sb6114 May 24, 2010 at 2:26 am

    It takes a considerable amount of time (and money) to make these kinds of developments in aircraft, then much more time (and money) to actually make them safe and begin manufacture. There are many different parts in the airplanes, and the manufacturing process is not an easy one to develop. The “new” F-22′s began production in 2003, but they had been working on them since 1981. They still seem like technological marvels, but a lot of it isn’t really “new” at all. 35 years is, in my opinion pretty reasonable, since much of this is really just ideas at this point. They just should have started sooner.

    A nuclear powered airplane?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power#Nuclear_reactor_technology

    Who wants to ride on an airplane with a (very heavy) boiler on board that is very sensitive to changes in temperature if not controlled properly? That would be as bad as having a coal powered steam engine to power the aircraft.

  3. mariospants May 19, 2010 at 9:40 am

    @aileronguy:

    “HHHhmmmm…the engines on most current jets are not close together so as to NOT emulate the Concorde disaster – One engine should not take out the other next to it.”

    Didn’t you hear that these engines are using the latest in rubber-band technology?

  4. 1kenthomas May 18, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    @zbsfan:

    Poopycock. Cut the cost of the US East Coast to Europe from $900RT to $300RT, and I will gladly sit in a row of 80!

    Ken Thomas
    http://www.1kenthomas.com/

  5. rollzone May 18, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    hello. now that’s the spirit,zuggenheim. let’s put a booster app on everyone’s hand held communicator. attach it to our utility belt, and away we go…look- up in the sky….

  6. zuggenheim May 18, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    To harmless and TheEzEzz: why would you jump to the conclusion that Airbus/Boeing et al aren\’t trying just because you read one article about one concept study by MIT? Do you actually follow what they do? Both of those companies are spending orders of magnitude more money developing new concepts than public funded sources. A study that results in a report and some pretty pictures is a far cry from making a real airplane. I know because I\’ve participated in both.

    Before we get too spoiled, let\’s stop and take stock of what a miracle jet flight is. For the price of a day or two\’s wages we can traverse the country at 8 miles above the ground and 600 mph, while sipping chardonnay. And do it more safely than driving to work. Making this happen is *hard* and *complex*. If you\’re looking for quantum leaps in a 5 year time horizon, then you\’re confusing a jet aircraft with an iphone.

  7. aileronguy May 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    >>HHHhmmmm…the engines on most current jets are not close together so as to NOT emulate the Concorde disaster – One engine should not take out the other next to it.

    This of course explains how all Boeing aircraft designed and manufactured before and since the 1960s – when the Concorde was built – still have the same engine design.

    Please go back to your ailerons, you obviously know nothing about engines or wing design. It’s aerodynamics, not ’safety’
    —-
    Stupidly, you mistake engine design with aircraft safety design. Example: the WartHog has both engines separate and up high for safety reasons. Example: the 777 has 2 engines and can run over the open water (ETOPS), but only after proving the aircraft can run on 1 engine if necessary. Ailerons Rule!

  8. robblerobble May 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I would think after the 60 years of Jet Engines, there would be a different technology altogether. Granted there has been improvements but looking at “sub sonic” only is garbage. The longer you have travel time, the longer the durations of emissions, the longer people have to sit on them, etc. I think it is time for nuclear based aircraft honestly.

  9. Anonymoose May 18, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    >>HHHhmmmm…the engines on most current jets are not close together so as to NOT emulate the Concorde disaster – One engine should not take out the other next to it.

    This of course explains how all Boeing aircraft designed and manufactured before and since the 1960s – when the Concorde was built – still have the same engine design.

    Please go back to your ailerons, you obviously know nothing about engines or wing design. It’s aerodynamics, not ‘safety’.

  10. PhilHibbs May 18, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Sure, in the next 25 years there may well be other, better innovations. But those will take time to develop, test, and bring to market as well; we could wait and wait for ever more newer, better ideas and do nothing.

  11. xavier May 18, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Is the nose hidden on all the images in purpose?

  12. zbsfan May 17, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Nice. Nothing unique. Boeing already studied and even designed a “wing” aircraft years ago. The 787 ended up winning out, because after all sorts of analysis, it turns out, while the wing design LOOKS cool and is super efficient, people don’t want to fly in it. They studied this and no on wants to be in a row of 35 seats (the ‘wide’ part of the wing), that far away from the window. It freaks people out. It’s a psychological problem, not a technological one.

  13. tb May 17, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    How quickly can the airlines turn this into increased profit rather than reduced ticket prices?

  14. daniel shand May 17, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    This great!

  15. TheEzEzz May 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Seriously.. 2035? It takes a quarter century to improve airplane fuel economy? If fuel costs are such a dominating factor in the economics of flight then why aren’t the major players pushing this much harder?

    Very neat, nonetheless. I could get excited about this if it were on a 5 year time frame.

  16. aileronguy May 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    HHHhmmmm…the engines on most current jets are not close together so as to NOT emulate the Concorde disaster – One engine should not take out the other next to it.

  17. harmless May 17, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    If we weren’t already skeptical about the primacy of markets after the recent mess with the economy, what about the part where it was NASA and MIT doing this and not, say, Boeing/Airbus/United/Lufthansa?

  18. jmcc123 May 17, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Put Burt Rutan on it, then it will get done before 2035!

  19. cosmicvisitor May 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    By 2035, I\’m sure there will probably be *MUCH* better solutions that effectively joining two airplanes together (and as such dividing the fuel cost by 2 =50%), then trimming bits here and there like the wings etc. until another 20% is saved (in theory)…

  20. brilang May 17, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    This really needs to be done a lot sooner than 2035….

  21. WBrooke May 17, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Excellent.
    Also, having the engines placed above the body of the airplane means that the noise from take-off and landing would be greatly reduced. This is especially important for airports in urban centres.

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