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Future Aircraft to Become More Fuel-Efficient Thanks to Regenerative Braking

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If you fly pretty often, you’re going to like this a lot. Again, if you’re living near an airport, you’re going to dig this even more. I’m talking about planes powering themselves and thus making for a cheaper ticket or a less noisy airport. How is that possible?

Well, maybe few of us knew that when braking during landing and causing friction, airplanes are actually giving off a great deal of heat. For example, an Airbus 320 lets off around 3 MW from friction between the copper coils of the runway and the magnets attached to the underside of the aircraft.

Now this heat, if harnessed by motor-generators in the landing gear, would be turned into electricity and thrown in at the right time. In the car industry, this is called “regenerative braking,” and is already being used since the first hybrid got out on the market. Train locomotives started doing this decades ago. However, for airplanes, the right time includes taxiing to and from airport buildings, a process known as “engine-less taxiing.”

Engine-less taxiing would bring in several benefits: savings on fuel, since commercial planes wait on the ground with their engines running most of the time, and less air and noise pollution. ACARE (the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe) thinks it’s such a great idea that it wants the trend to become standard procedure by 2020.

This comes as a result of the confirmation the University of Lincoln gave the project, after being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The project is not completely ready yet, since the weight of the conductors and electronic power converters could prove an issue. However, the general idea of making airplanes more independent and airports less harmful can’t possibly seem wrong in any way.

[via ScienceDaily]

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