PARIS (AFP) – The blue glowing jets of science fiction spacecraft came a step closer to reality on Wednesday as US physicists unveiled the world’s first solid-state aeroplane powered in flight by supercharged air molecules.
More than a century on from the Wright brothers’ first artificial flight, scientists hailed the “historic” test of the new technology, which could eventually slash greenhouse-gas emissions from aviation.
Ever since Orville and Wilbur Wright’s momentous glide in the winter of 1903, aircraft have been driven by propellers or jets that must burn fuel to create the thrust and lift needed for sustained flight.
A team of experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) managed to unlock a process known as electro aerodynamics, previously never seen as a plausible way to power an aircraft.
They were able to fly the new plane, with a wingspan of five meters (16 feet), a distance of 55 meters at a speed of 4.8 meters-per-second.