New biplane design could reignite supersonic travel

Mar 16, 2012
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While everyone certainly seemed to love the idea of Concorde, they definitely didn’t like the price that came with flying on one. Massive fuel costs was one of the reasons for its eventual decommission, as well as the sonic boom it produced, rendering it unable to fly over populated areas for fear of upsetting people on the ground. An MIT researcher believes to have found the answer to the problems that plagued the Concorde.

A sonic boom is created when air starts to build up at the front of the plane, and when it hits supersonic speeds, the increase in air pressure creates two shock waves, creating the sonic boom. Original calculations by German engineer Adolf Busemann found that by employing a triangular wing design instead, the sonic boom can be cancelled out. The problem there is that the design creates a very narrow feed through which air can flow, which results in no lift. So while the design works well at supersonic speeds, it would never be able to overcome the drag to get to that point.

Researchers at MIT and Standford ran computer simulations to find the best shape at different speeds, correlating all the information to find the perfect shape for each wing. Eventually they found a design that not only could achieve the necessary supersonic speeds, but reduce drag by 50% over the Concorde, requiring less fuel to boot.

The design isn’t final, though, as a 3D model needs to be created to test other attibutes that may be affected during flight. Ultimately the design may lead to the creation of a supersonic plane that would be far cheaper, and also able to fly over land.

[via PhysOrg]


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