An engineer from the University of Miami has received $100,000 from NASA to develop a fuel-efficient supersonic aircraft shaped like a ninja star. Working with a team from Florida State University, Ge-Chen Zha has designed a bi-directional flying wing (SBiDir-FW) that can travel at supersonic speeds without the sonic boom generated by conventional aircraft when they break the sound barrier. This remarkable jet could potentially travel from New York to Tokyo in four hours.

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The $100,000 grant, which comes from NASA’s prestigious Innovative Advanced Concepts program, will allow Zha and his colleagues to continue development of their high-tech, futuristic plane which is capable of such speed by simply turning 90 degrees in the air.

Whereas most aircraft are composed of a tube-shaped fuselage with two wings inserted, such vehicles are designed to hold passengers and cargo, with lift being generated by the wings. Zha has said that this design “is not very efficient and generates a strong sonic boom.” Instead, his BiDir-FW platform is symmetric along both the longitudinal and span axes. It is a flying wing that generates lift everywhere and is able to rotate 90 degrees during flight between supersonic and subsonic speeds.

“I am glad that this novel concept is recognized by the technological authorities for its scientific merit,” said Zha, a professor at UM’s College of Engineering and principal investigator of the project. “This prize means that NASA rewards audacious thinking.”

“Through the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, NASA is taking the long-term view of technological investment and the advancement that is essential for accomplishing our missions. We are inventing the ways in which next-generation aircraft and spacecraft will change the world and inspiring Americans to take bold steps.”

Zha is even hoping he can make his design greener than it already is, with its zero sonic boom, low supersonic wave drag and low fuel consumption. “I am hoping to develop an environmentally friendly and economically viable airplane for supersonic civil transport in the next 20 to 30 years,” he said.

+ University of Miami

via Innovation News Daily