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Boeing's Hybrid Electric Airliner of the Future

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the flying-rice-burner dept.

Transportation 152

fergus07 writes "Borne out of the same NASA research program that gave birth to MIT's D 'double bubble,' Boeing's Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research (SUGAR) Volt concept is a twin-engine aircraft design notable for its trussed, elongated wings and electric battery gas turbine hybrid propulsion system — a system designed to reduce fuel burn by more than 70 percent and total energy use by 55 percent. The goal of the NASA supersonic research program is to find aircraft designs that will significantly reduce noise, nitrogen oxide emissions, fuel burn and air traffic congestion by the year 2035."

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"supersonic" (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33116056)

The S is for super and the U is for unique!

Re:"supersonic" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33116176)

The P is for perfection.

obscure?

Re:"supersonic" (5, Insightful)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#33119322)

obscure?

Definitely obscure. "Ecological" cars and airplanes? Carbon-powered? Obscure motivations? Trains are 100% electric, infinitely safer, more spacious, smaller footprint than roads, etc. On short routes, they can be faster than flying, after factoring taxis and airport waits. And, there are bar-cars. -- http://gizmodo.com/5434582/the-fastest-train-in-the-world [gizmodo.com]

Always 25 years (2, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116074)

All the coolest technology is always now()+25 years away.

Re:Always 25 years (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116178)

That's because most people have no idea how cool the now technology is. The Internet is absolutely amazing on pretty much every technological level, and yet to 95% of the world, its technology is indistinguishable from the magic of a radio.

Re:Always 25 years (4, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116436)

A few month ago, I sat in a pub watching (live) an Astronaut operating on the internals of the Hubble Space Telescope. On my phone.
We live in the goddamn future!

Re:Always 25 years (4, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117212)

A few month ago, I sat in a pub watching (live) an Astronaut operating on the internals of the Hubble Space Telescope. On my phone.
We live in te goddamn future!

Your future is happening 40 years after I sat at my home watching (live) an Astronaut walking on the Moon.

I would gladly exchange all the cellphones in the world for being able to walk on the moon.

Re:Always 25 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33118030)

maybe our ability to walk on the moon depends on our ability to understand that if we keep fucking with the earth the earth will one day say fuck us all. after we are all gone, it can happily continue and look beautiful again in a few million years. but we're a pretty nasty virus and we'll respawn pretty quick. we'll be back on earth some day...

Re:Always 25 years (2, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#33119132)

maybe our ability to walk on the moon depends on our ability to understand that if we keep fucking with the earth the earth will one day say fuck us all. after we are all gone, it can happily continue and look beautiful again in a few million years. but we're a pretty nasty virus and we'll respawn pretty quick. we'll be back on earth some day...

We're not a virus. We're the most interesting thing that has yet happened on Earth, perhaps in our whole galaxy. Just because there are minor teething problems coming from our heritage, doesn't mean that we aren't trying and don't deserve to exist.

Re:Always 25 years (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33118034)

I would gladly exchange all the cellphones in the world for being able to walk on the moon.

You know, I'm thinking that the ability for *anyone* to communicate instantly with *anyone else* in the world by voice or text (or for a few, video) with just a tiny box about the size and shape of a "communicator" from Star Trek from—get this—40 years ago, is probably better than sitting at home watching on TV a couple of other guys bounce around hitting golf balls on a cold, dead rock that offers us no immediate chance for advancement beyond the psychological thrill of saying "someone else other than me walked on the moon." Never even mind smart phones and the ability to watch video or read web pages from *anywhere*... even the ubiquitous manifestation of cellular telephony is a fucking MIRACLE of technology that has immediate, palpable consequences for all of humanity. It has made the world smaller; the moon walk just made it seem a bit smaller. I wouldn't exchange cell phones for watching some guy walk on the moon... they're really more important than the moon landing.

Re:Always 25 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33118106)

Having lived in both worlds (pre-cellphone and cellphone), I prefer the former. And if given the opportunity to trade all the cellphones in the world for another Moon mission, deal.

Re:Always 25 years (1)

soundguy (415780) | more than 4 years ago | (#33119232)

You forgot to tell those kids to get off your lawn.

Re:Always 25 years (1)

DarkIye (875062) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117920)

I keep telling people this, but it's just bitch, bitch, bitch.

Re:Always 25 years (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33116270)

so currently, the coolest technology is 2035 years away? way to show off programming in communication.

Re:Always 25 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33116468)

assuming we don't destroy ourselves in the next 2035 years, don't you think the tech of 4045 will be cooler than the tech of 2035?

Re:Always 25 years (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117634)

assuming we don't destroy ourselves in the next 2035 years, don't you think the tech of 4045 will be cooler than the tech of 2035?

Not necessarily. I know of at least one ancient technology [google.com] that was still cooler than what they could do 1700 years later.

When they wanted to build a bridge over the Gardon river in France in 1740 they followed the same design that the Romans had built [wikipedia.org] . The new bridge was an expansion of the lowest line of arches of the ancient aqueduct.

I've been there and it's weird to see the obviously newer stonework following exactly the same lines as the old weather-worn stones the Romans laid.

Re:Always 25 years (3, Insightful)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116482)

This story is somewhat of a dupe (too lazy to look up the original, though it was less than a year ago), and this point was brought up then too.

When you're talking about advanced aircraft, the "25 years effect" is not the same as it is for overhyped things like fusion power; here, there's actually a reason. Aircraft take a loooooooong time to go from concept to flight: recall that Airbus starting thinking about the A380 in 1988, made it an official project in 1994, and it started commercial flight in 2007. And that's for a conservative design that was just building on existing principles. For a radical, untested design it would be considerably longer. Looking at it from that point of view, 2035 is actually a very reasonable target.

Less than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33118986)

The sr71 took much less than 25 years concept to operational, less than ten. And that's about as advanced as it gets, for what we know that is publicly available, and dollars to doughnuts on a rope (contrails), they have better than that operating now.

They can do it faster if there is need, otherwise, they milk those things out for the big bucks.

With the compute power they have today...I bet they can go concept to working model in a few years if they really want to. Dragging out some design for twenty five years is pork barrel stuff.

Re:Always 25 years (1)

ooshna (1654125) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116912)

I remember when flat screen monitors were nothing but science fiction and the idea of multiple gigs of memory fitting on something smaller than a dime was too far fetched even for spy movies.

Re:Always 25 years (2, Informative)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117910)

All the coolest technology is always now()+25 years away.

No, the coolest technology is now being used by off-the-books military "black" ops and weapons programs. It's always +25 years away for the rest of us, though.

I remember back in the 70's when people were being ridiculed for reporting sightings of large triangular craft which were very quiet and flew low over ranches out West.

Of course, they were stealth aircraft, which were being used in all sorts of black bag missions overseas. Today, it's probably something like HAARP or some ugly microwave mind control bullshit, which can get you called a tin-foil hat wearing nut just by mentioning it. In 25 years, when urban law enforcement is using it, nobody will remember calling you crazy. There were crazy people in the '60's who believed our very own government was using psychoactive drugs on unsuspecting citizens to see if they could be made to do very bad things. Can you imagine anything crazier? I bet those people were wearing tin-foil hats too.

I just hope Wikileaks stays in business, because I for one don't really care for my government doing sleazy black bag shenanigans without my knowledge, that always end up with some third world country hating us and sending terrorists twenty years later. Then, everybody will be saying "Gee, why do they hate us so much?" and nobody will hear the answer: "Because you used some sick heat ray on my village twenty years ago and my sister died a horrible death because of it."

Terrorists don't just pop out of the sky one day, hating America because we're such a swell bunch.

Now, what were we talking about?

Re:Always 25 years (1)

FlyMysticalDJ (1660959) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118040)

I'm with you that there isn't much of a place for government secrets. But it's a gray area. The reason they're not public to us about things like stealth bombers is because it takes a little bit of the stealth out of it if your enemies know what's coming. I'm from the point of view that there shouldn't be a need for enemies in this age, but at the same time deciding to be completely open about our military ability is just begging for someone that doesn't embrace that point of view to exploit that.

Also, I'm all for trying to tell the government that we are against their current policies, but there might be more elegant approaches. If everyone banded together and protested the governments policies and put up a general stink about it all, things would slowly change. Problem is that most people don't feel a need to be that educated on the inner workings of the government that has a degree of power over us. Of course if I'm wrong that there are many people out there that want things to change, that brings up another point. If the majority of America wants there to be classified secrets of the government, it only takes one person leaking information to infringe on the rights of a nation. I'm not saying that anyone should ditch the country, but the majority supposedly makes the rules. And if that majority decision doesn't sit well with you, I'd like to believe there are other nations with other viewpoints. Just a thought anyway.

Re:Always 25 years (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118240)

If the majority of America wants there to be classified secrets of the government, it only takes one person leaking information to infringe on the rights of a nation.

You're going to have to convince me that a majority of Americans want our country to be hiding what's really going on in Afghanistan.

See, it's easy to say "I want to protect national security, so there should be secrets" but then everything suddenly becomes an issue of national security.

In 2003 when Dick Cheney and the Bush Administration asserted "national security" as a reason why the names of the people who had worked with the Administration to create an energy policy should not be released to the public, it was pretty clear we had left a reasonable level of secrecy in the dust just to protect the administration from the embarrassment of having everyone know they'd sold the country out to the oil interests. If "whether or not we are actually accomplishing anything in Afghanistan" becomes a state secret based on national security, there's a bigger problem than wikileaks.

Re:Always 25 years (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 4 years ago | (#33119096)

All the coolest technology is always now()+25 years away.

Of course it is. Once it's just around the corner, it's boring, since you've seen every tiny step leading up to it.

Meanwhile, these days, I can just go out and buy an electric car...

Supersonic?!? (2, Interesting)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116102)

I thought the British and the French proved that to be unprofitable?

The other planes....I just imagined the airline packing those suckers and having more than one middle seat. And you know they'll be charging extra for the window or the isle seat.

Re:Supersonic?!? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33116144)

Actually Concord was generating 25% of BOAC's profits.

Re:Supersonic?!? (2, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116208)

The first car was unprofitable. The first version of the Internet was unprofitable. The first everything is generally unprofitable. Reduce fuel costs by about 50%, reduce sonic boom to match federal guidelines for land crossing, and you have a profitable supersonic airplane.

Re:Supersonic?!? (2, Informative)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116334)

Don't forget, the Concord was '70s technology. Even 90s technology could have done better.

The thing wasn't cheap, but there was no other option on Earth. There simply wasn't (and isn't) a way to get between NY and London faster. You can't buy a supersonic jet, and the military won't let you borrow one.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116374)

Can't you buy a slightly used Russian ex-military aircraft? Assuming you have enough cash that is.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116478)

Often not, the really nice stuff they will let you buy but not flyout of the country. For examples look up the Tu-144 for an example.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117134)

You can buy MiG and Sukhoi fighters. They've been demilitarized, of course, but they're still capable of supersonic flight, and can be flown in the US, provided you have the proper licenses and ratings. There's a guy on the East Coast that owns several MiGs, IIRC.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117190)

And you're not going to get them over the ocean. They are cool as hell, but not very useful for SST.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117682)

No, not useful nor economic for SST, but why wouldn't you get them over the ocean? That's where you can pass Mach 1. Stay on an IFR flight plan, keep the ADIZ in mind, and make damned sure you don't drift inside of it during supersonic flight without notifying ATC, lest you find a fighter of somewhat different make behind you and a sudden need to test your ejection seat.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118826)

I meant you cannot cross an ocean with one. In flight refueling is not really and option for a private citizen.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117532)

Not if you want to make a profit.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117868)

Depends how much your time is worth.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116484)

You can't buy a supersonic jet

There are one or two supersonic business jets, but they're so expensive (about as expensive as buying an ex-mil supersonic jet and getting it refurbished to the required standard) that "you can't buy one" essentially still applies.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116790)

There aren't any. Various manufacturers have looked at making them, and some may eventually be produced, but as of now there are no supersonic business jets on the market.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

danhuby (759002) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116494)

Don't forget, the Concord was '70s technology.

60s even... it was developed in the '60s and first flew in 1969... quite something really.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

ogmundur (954110) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117652)

The laws af physics are still the same now as they were in the 70s, dramatic improvements over Concorde (which was developed in the 60s anyway) are highly unlikely even with current technology. Research on the subject has also not been particularly active in recent years.

Re:Supersonic?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33118320)

Physics are the same, but there've been advances in materials then, not to mention all the computerization (useful both for modeling and for controlling the actual plane). For example, they can do a lot more in the design process now to figure out how loud the plane will be, and have ways of making most of the sound travel up instead of down. They couldn't do that back when they were designing the Concorde.

Economics are the same, too. The Concorde didn't have the range to do many routes. But with a longer ranged supersonic plane, even if you're still limited to only going supersonic over the oceans, there might be enough routes to make it viable again. (The Concorde itself was viable for the NYC-London trips, once the development costs had been written off; it was killed by 9/11. Literally killed; the company lost a few hundred regular business travelers between those killed in the attack and those whose companies had enough in the building that their companies folded).

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116382)

reduce sonic boom to match federal guidelines for land crossing

Currently, federal guidelines are mutually exclusive to any aircraft which breaks the sound barrier. This is something current aerospace biggies have repeatedly pointed out. We already have designs which can satisfy all reasonable super sonic noise demands. Meaning, you *might* occasionally hear a very distant boom but you would never have the associated window shaking.

Besides, most (all?) studies indicate the vast majority of complaints associated with sonic booms never actually existed. More often than not, it was people looking to get some money from the government/airport by simply lying.

There exists no legitimate reason to prevent modern, supersonic aircraft, which have been designed to mitigate sonic boom disturbance, from flying across all land masses in the world.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116526)

If true then the lobbyists should have no problems changing the regulations.

Since it hasn't been done either it is not that simple of an issue, or no one has put forth the money to have the regulation changed.

I'm sure once an aerospace firm has a design in testing the regulations will be changed.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116778)

If true then the lobbyists should have no problems changing the regulations.

They were actually well on their way of addressing it when super sonic transports were all but canceled because of fuel economics. So until economics make it politically viable to address it again, I don't expect it will change.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116948)

So the Concorde was uneconomical when fuel was much cheaper, so all we have to do is make fuel half a cheap as it is now, even though it's only going to get more expensive in the future? American guidelines have nothing to do with it, the point of supersonic travel is transoceanic.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116406)

Only when you can't fly it overland at top speed. Plus have to deal with a nose that dips to land and a bunch of other stuff that was neat in the 60s but crap today.

Re:Supersonic?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33116716)

Supersonic can be profitable, but it's tough...

Not because people won't pay to save time, but because it doesn't save much time. When you consider the time spent at the airport before departure (arrive 3 hours early in case you are selected for random hassling by the TSA!), making connections with the regional jets at each end, and going through customs/baggage on arrival, it has to be a pretty long flight for halving the flight time on one leg to be worth much.

IMO, the most profitable overland routes will be transcontinental US flights -- LA/NY, etc. It's long enough to save several hours, and has none of the extra hassles of international travel. Major population centers at each end means more people can make it a direct flight, where the time savings mean the most.

Within the EU, although travel is rather free, and security delays less than the US, the distances just don't work out for most routes; marginal at best.

Trouble is, at present, there's only three viable routes, all over water, as the lack of noise constraints makes this far more practical for current tech. Transatlantic is definitely worthwhile (see Concorde, which was actually rather successful). Even better (though the Anglo/French Concorde was never situated to run it) is US/Hawaii runs (similar length, same-country), and, if the plane has the legs for it, US/Tokyo (very long flight, high population, and relatively free travel). Trouble is, those three routes mean at least two disjoint fleets (unless/until we can make at least break-even transcontinental runs), so it's really hard to make a business case for a new SST fleet vs. more efficient conventional planes. Of course they hope to make overland runs at full speed in 30 years (probably doable), but there may be an intervening generation that's slower overland, and could run the whole network at break-even, even if it only rakes in the big profits on these oceanic routes.

Re:Supersonic?!? (1)

B4D BE4T (879239) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117556)

And you know they'll be charging extra for the window or the isle seat.

I hear Oceanic has great rates!

Obvious question (2, Interesting)

Ryvar (122400) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116116)

You say you want to save massive amounts of energy, and then you show me a design that is not a flying wing. Slashdot, you have some aerospace engineers lying around, so help me out: what gives?

Re:Obvious question (3, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116292)

Flying wings have many excellent characteristics but mass passenger transport isn't one of them.

In order to accommodate large passenger loads the flying wing shape becomes abused which leaves behind many of the characteristics which make the flying wing attractive in the first place. Once you modify the flying wing shape to accommodate large passenger loads, you more or less have a shape which is portrayed in the designs presented. And once you accommodate construction/materials issues, it almost exactly looks like the designs presented.

In other words, I'm not really seeing a problem. But, as you mention, hopefully some designers won't be silent.

Re:Obvious question (1)

TheWizardTim (599546) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117358)

Another problem is turning. Right now sitting close to the center of gravity, when a plane turns you travel a few feet up or down. If you were sitting 20 or 30 feet from the center of gravity, you would travel much further. Most people would feel very uncomfortable doing this. Pilots would have to perform only flat turns, using the rudders. I don't know how practical this would be.

Re:Obvious question (2)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117954)

question, if you were at the very tip of a flying wing and the plane made a turn, would your drink spill due to the angle you'd be sitting at or would the force of the turn hold the fluid in your cup? i'm guessing it'd stay in the cup if you were banking hard to the left and you were on the high side, but if they just dipped the wing it'd go flying out?

Re:Obvious question (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116320)

I am no aerospace engineer, about as far from it as you can get, but I would think that wing = drag.

Yes, some drag is needed for lift, but can you fit enough passengers in just a wing and then can you fit that wing on a runway?

Re:Obvious question (3, Interesting)

magarity (164372) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117114)

I am no aerospace engineer, about as far from it as you can get, but I would think that wing = drag.
 
Congrats on accidentally making the wrongest statement ever on /. On an airplane, wing = lift. And since the purpose of the airplane is to go up, lift = good. The part the people sit in, that uniform shaped tube body, equals drag. An airplane shaped like a big wing could thus lift the most and drag the least. (see: Northrop YB-49)
 
A tube body can actually produce some lift if it's shaped correctly but it's very expensive to manufacture and tricky to design (see: Super Constellation).

Re:Obvious question (2, Informative)

ogmundur (954110) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117710)

Actually lift also causes drag, so called induced drag; Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_drag [wikipedia.org]

Re:Obvious question (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118992)

Well, duh, induced drag IS lift; and it's pretty clear from context this is NOT the type of drag the GP was talking about.

Re:Obvious question (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#33119290)

No it was what I was talking about. It was pretty clear, but somehow you missed it.

Re:Obvious question (2, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116422)

Passengers like pressurized cabins, tubes are easy to build and keep pressurized. Complex shapes are not easy to build if you want to keep them pressurized.

Re:Obvious question (2, Informative)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116702)

it's not a huge pressure differential. Less than a few feet of water in reality.

Re:Obvious question (2, Informative)

Pla123 (855814) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117192)

You realize that "just a few feet of water" is more like 22 feet (7.5m) of water.
At 35000 feet (10.5 km) cruising altitude for non-super sonic airplanes, air density is 25% of see level air density. 1 atmosphere is about the pressure of 10m of water column.
Everest is "just" 8848 m, and yet very few can breathe easily without several days acclimatization.
See altitude sickness. Even oxygen masks may not be enough at very low pressures.

Re:Obvious question (2, Informative)

dziban303 (540095) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117342)

While I don't refute your point, Pla123, I feel I should point out that passenger aircraft are not pressurized to sea level pressure. I believe--and no, it isn't fact, but I bet it's pretty close--that airliners are pressurized to ~7000 feet above sea level. What is that, like, 800mb? Anyway, there it is.

Re:Obvious question (1)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117544)

You are right on. Wikipedia confirms this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabin_pressurization [wikipedia.org]

Although to be honest, altitudes around 7,000' aren't that bad. I've been in aircraft with the doors open above 15,000' without noticing anything except my ears popping. I'm not sure I could comfortably jog at that altitude but then again that's not something you typically do on an airplane.

I've spent countless hours on military cargo aircraft (that were sealed like a screen door), flying at cruising altitude, without noticing anything. The only weird part is walking around a compartment that's twice as big as my house and few miles over the atlantic.

-b

Re:Obvious question (1)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118378)

it's not a huge pressure differential. Less than a few feet of water in reality.

Between 8 and 9 psi, typically. Almost 20 feet of water. It's not such a big deal when the structure is circular since the stress is all tension. Much tougher when you try to build large, flat surfaces.

Re:Obvious question (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116542)

To fit passengers comfortable into the wing, it needs to be a goddamn big wing. A wing that big could only be used on the most mass of the mass transit routes to be economical, would be expensive to develop, and would require airports to be rebuilt to accommodate them at the terminals (real deal-killer).
Like any cool new thing, it's legacy compatibility that scuppers it.

Re:Obvious question (5, Interesting)

dziban303 (540095) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116752)

Another problem with a flying wing passenger aircraft is the fact that there won't be many, if any, window seats. Okay, minor problem? What about the forces that would act on people towards the wingtips when banking? A relatively minor turn that would barely be noticed in a tubular airframe would be magnified into a fifteen foot drop or rise towards the edges. Now imagine trying to land in turbulent, stormy weather, and being really far from the center axis of the aircraft. Whatever money would be saved by the efficient wing design would be eaten up by barf bags and steam cleanings of the cabin after every flight.

Re:Obvious question (2, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#33119288)

A relatively minor turn that would barely be noticed in a tubular airframe would be magnified into a fifteen foot drop or rise towards the edges.

Why do you think it'd feel like a 15 foot drop or rise? I doubt it would, if the turn were done smoothly. From what I'm reading, roll control (the control of rotation of the axis along the direction of travel) is not a serious issue with flying wings. That seems to indicate to me that the issue of storms and such (most which wouldn't generate a significant rolling motion in the vehicle) is a bit exaggerated.

Props (1)

Cochonou (576531) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116242)

For the pictures, it looks like the subsonic airplane is equipped with turboprop engines - or are these propfans ? If so, our next generations airliners might very well be equipped with propellers again: Airbus is also considering propfans [espacenet.com] .

Re:Props (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116574)

Read the article, it seems to indicate that gas turbines are used to generate power which then powers electric motors that spin props. This would get you around lots of propfan issues.

I base this on the following from the article:
which includes an electric battery gas turbine hybrid propulsion system

Re:Props (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | more than 4 years ago | (#33119298)

I'm very surprised that a turbine driving an generator, powering an electric motor driving a fan is more efficient (including the extra weight) than a turbine directly driving the fan. Airliners usually cruise at altitudes where the engines are run at near max-efficiency power (at that altitude).

Re:Props (3, Interesting)

Marillion (33728) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116858)

Jet engines are already de-facto propeller engines. If you call it a "Fan" it doesn't sound as scary as "Propeller." In a high bypass turbofan engine such as those found in most modern aircraft, most of the thrust is produced by the fan part of the turbofan. For example, the CF-34 [wikipedia.org] jet engine has a bypass ratio of 80% or better. This means 80% of the thrust is produced by spinning a fan. Newer designs like the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 [wikipedia.org] get 84% thrust from the bypass fan. Basically, anything that can create radial motion can be use to turn that fan. Electric, steam, compressed air, .... {insert physics here}.

Re:Props (3, Informative)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117952)

The bypass ratio refers to the mass of air moved around the core to the mass moved through the core, not the ratio of thrust. For any given mass of air being put through the core, it will produce more thrust than the same ratio outside the core because it gets hotter/faster.

Re:Props (2, Interesting)

jbengt (874751) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118600)

Jet engines are, by definition, not fans. They produce thrust by the acceleration of a jet of combustion products exiting the rear of the engine through a nozzle. Rockets are jet engines; but the term jet engine usually implies air-breathing and rockets are assumed to carry their own oxidizer. Propellers/fans produce thrust pushing air back by rotation of the fan blades/fan wheels/propellers .
Fans can be propellers or otherwise. When talking about aircraft it's usually meant that a prop is un-ducted but a fan is ducted.
Pure jet engines are efficient at high speeds, but very inefficient at low speeds like at takeoff where fans can be a big help. That's one of the main reasons fans are included in the "jet engines" found on most commercial aircraft. (Unducted) Props don't work very well at the high cruising speeds of most airliners because the velocity of the propeller tip gets added (vector-wise) to the airspeed of the plane, which result in velocities near or above the speed of sound. The ducting can be designed to slow down the air and somewhat mitigate that issue.
Commercial airliners usually use combination fan/jet engines.

www.freakify.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33119390)

Jet engines are already de-facto propeller engines. If you call it a "Fan" it doesn't sound as scary as "Propeller." In a high bypass turbofan engine such as those found in most modern aircraft, most of the thrust is produced by the fan part of the turbofan. For example, the CF-34 [wikipedia.org] jet engine has a bypass ratio of 80% or better. This means 80% of the thrust is produced by spinning a fan. Newer designs like the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 [wikipedia.org] get 84% thrust from the bypass fan. Basically, anything that can create radial motion can be use to turn that fan. Electric, steam, compressed air, .... {insert physics here}.

www.freakify.com
back link added nice article

Flying Car . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116254)

Boeing's Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research (SUGAR) Volt concept is a twin-engine aircraft design notable for its trussed, elongated wings and electric battery gas turbine hybrid propulsion system

I think they just should have tried a less ambitious project, like building a Flying Car, instead.

"Ultra Green?" So what's the superlative for that? "Giga Green?" "iGreen?" Or what?

Re:Flying Car . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33116498)

Maybe it's like street fighter and they just add more to it, like "Ultra Green II Turbo Alpha Plus"

Re:Flying Car . . . (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116770)

It's like, how much more green could this be? and the answer is none. None more green.

Not usefull unless (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116318)

This isn't useful unless I can drive it on the roads.

Re:Not usefull unless (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116598)

That would be called a car, these are airplanes. Making anything that does both jobs gives you a bad car and a worse airplane.

So, just plastics and lube then? (2, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116332)

I had 'jet fuel' as on my list of things that wouldn't ever likely get replaced with electric storage, and now this reduces the list a bit. Can we just start putting up some modern nuclear reactors and get out of the Middle East then? We've got plenty of sources here for real oil needs.

No one has died of a radiation-related accident in the history of the U.S. civilian nuclear reactor program. [washingtonpost.com] but 10,000 or so Americans have died so far as a result of making war in the Middle East. [icasualties.org]

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (1)

somepunk (720296) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116466)

I don't see where hybrids help here. The whole point is to use a smaller, more efficient engine, then add extra juice from the batteries at peak demand. Aircraft don't vary in their power demand by much once they get to cruising altitude. I didn't see this explained, but I've just started reading the links.

Maybe they save up a little juice and use it to help with taking off with the next flight? Short on details.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (4, Informative)

Delwin (599872) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116632)

Look at diesel-electric trains for the model, not hybrid cars.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (2, Informative)

pittance (78536) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117410)

I'm not sure trains are a good model either; Diesel-electric trains are effective because the torque you need for starting & driving a train doesn't easily come from a diesel motor without lots of gearing and clutches that are complex, inefficient and potentially unreliable.

Electric motors can give you all the torque you want from a standing start and so they make it easier to use diesels, avoiding the need to electrify your rail network (partly the reason Britain went with Diesel-electric trains in the '50s - they didn't have the capital to electrify).

With aircraft it's less clear where the advantage is going to come from since the kerosene motor + generator combination (and its associated losses) in an aircraft isn't solving a clear problem like lack of torque in a train and power requirements with lots of peaks and troughs as in a car.

However, a big advantage (from an environmental point of view) could be the ability to take electrical power for flight - once you have this you can gradually feed in alternative or low carbon energy into your mix. This type of aircraft could be a first step in that direction.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116862)

Yes, once they get to crusing, but they have to get that far first. This also uses exposed props which to meet noise regulations are going to be running at a speed that without complex gearing would not make a jet very fuel efficient.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117400)

The picture seems to show scimitar prop blades, which are much more efficient and produce less blade noise. I can also see where the props could have a battery-assisted power boost during take-off and climb to reduce overall engine noise while maintaining performance.

I can imagine this getting a negative PR image, though, because the general populace will see it as going backward. I already hear enough people complaining about the return to space capsules instead of developing another winged spacecraft. This would be a much more everyday thing, though perhaps a significantly lower flight cost would persuade them that it is better, and if they can maintain a cruise speed of a little under 450 miles per hour (which Wikipedia says is the point where props start running into wave drag), they won't take that much longer to make a given flight. Even a flight to New York from Los Angeles might take only an hour longer -- if that much -- to arrive.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33117822)

No need to gear the propellers. Connect them directly to electric motors and have the gas turbine direct-drive a high speed generator. Electric generators, alternators and motors (especially high horsepower type) have a percent efficiencies in the very high 90s. The battery could be minimal to provide the extra grunt needed to get off the ground and could be charges off the electric grid while on the tarmac.

One big reason diesel train engines use electric motors is for smooth, controllable power without the inefficiency of gear transmissions.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (2, Informative)

Jeff Carr (684298) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116870)

I don't see where hybrids help here.

I can see where they could use stored electricity to shut engines off when landing to reduce noise, charge at the gate, and take off without engines as well.

That alone wouldn't affect efficiency necessarily, but would probably allow the use of louder engine types that might be able to reduce efficiency, and it would reduce the opposition to airports allowing them to be placed in better locations.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (2, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116620)

Plastics and lube can be made from plant materials, or hell with enough power you can make all the hydrocarbons you want from water and air.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118010)

Close. The Fischer-Tropsch process uses hydrogen and carbon monoxide (CO) and the catalyst used in reactors can be from cobalt, iron, ruthenium and nickel. Synthesis gas or water gas is another source of H2 and CO. It is derived by passing steam over a bed of red hot hydrocarbon fuel such as coke. The result is a CO and hydrogen mix. Biomass can also be used to produce CO as well (and possibly syn-gas.) So in theory we can produce carbon neutral hydrocarbon fuels from biomass and hydrogen from water. Plus you can control the reaction to vary the hydrocarbon chain length. You can produce hydrocarbons from methane to diesel and heavier oils as well.

The Germans used the process in WW2 to fuel their war machine as CO can readily be made from the partial combustion of coal. And Germany has lots and lots of coal.

IMHO: Electric is the way to go for many applications but you cant beat the ease of portability and weight to power ratio of hydrocarbon fuels. I cant yet imagine an effective battery operated chain saw (not those puny ones that choke on 60mm+ branches) or a battery powered rail locomotive.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fischer%E2%80%93Tropsch_process [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_gas [wikipedia.org]

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116670)

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! The folks in the US got their drawers in a knot, when the Concorde wanted to fly over, "because it was too loud." What do you think they will say, when they have a Hiroshima or Nagasaki flying over their heads?

Everyone can stomach a nuclear submarine or aircraft carrier, because, well, they aren't going to dock in their backyard. (Apologies to the folks in Groton, Norfolk, and San Diego). If an accident happens, only a few whales, and other sea critters will be harmed.

Anyway, I personally believe that we are making a big mistalke by not investing in nuke research.

For some reason, nuclear energy tends to scare the Bejeuses out of folks, who don't even have the dimmest shimmer, how the stuff actually works.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117724)

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! The folks in the US got their drawers in a knot, when the Concorde wanted to fly over, "because it was too loud." What do you think they will say, when they have a Hiroshima or Nagasaki flying over their heads?

Stop getting your panties all bunched up... You do realize that the comment you're replying to talked about "electric storage"? Noone is gung-ho about flying nuclear ('cept maybe Emmet "Doc" Brown)... but if you can generate electrical via Nuclear (and Wind/Solar) and store it effectively via batteries, you might be able to replace a good chunk of gasoline that gets burned each flight with renewable and cheap energy. Today's batteries are probably not up to the task, but perhaps by 2030 (given the strong push for electric vehicles and portable electronics), there will be some that will allow significant liquid fuel reduction.

Re:So, just plastics and lube then? (2, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116682)

These things are still going to be carrying oil of some description rather than charged up batteries for most of their energy requirements. The additional weight of batteries is not going to make sense for an aircraft.

Hard to be excited (1)

Demize (55201) | more than 4 years ago | (#33116646)

It's hard to be excited about advances in air travel when, even after the nightmarish experience of going through security, I find myself herded like cattle into a cramped cabin. It's nice to imagine that this could lead to cheaper ticket prices, but airlines seem to be so deep in the red, that all it will probably mean is the same high ticket prices with slightly less airline bailout in the next go-around.

On the other hand, is any of this useful for private planes?

Forget Electric Hybrids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33116714)

For planes there is an easy answer - liquid hydrogen is a pretty good fuel for big aircraft. Big planes do not have the same volume limitations of small aircraft and vehicles and the big saving in fuel weight means you can reduce the structural weight of the aircraft significantly. LH2 can also increase engine efficiency quite a lot.

It would be easy to provide LH2 infrastructure at airports, and can be produced by renewable power like nuclear or wind or solar.

Re:Forget Electric Hybrids (2, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117538)

LH2 tanks require more insulation (meaning more weight). The planes can only carry so much fuel by volume. The maximum fuel capacity for a 737-NG is 26,000 liters. The density of Jet A at 15C is about 800g/L. The density of liquid hydrogen is 71g/L at 20K. At these densities, you get masses of about 21,000kg of Jet A and 1900kg of LH2. The specific energy of Jet A is about 43MJ/kg, and 143MJ/kg for LH2. At those levels, you get total stored energy of about 1.1 million MJ for Jet A, and only 270,000 MJ for LH2.

The numbers just don't work, and these don't consider the complicating factors from dealing with cryogenic fuels.

Re:Forget Electric Hybrids (2, Interesting)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 4 years ago | (#33117996)

They tried building a hydrogen powered spy plane back in the 70s or something. LH2 is kind of a nightmare to deal with compared to jet fuel. For one thing, its a cryogenic. The US Air Force decided that playing with LH2 was a) too dangerous and b) too much of a logistics headache. And even with LH2, your energy density is still significantly lower than jet fuel. They had a nightmare trying to get the range required on that spy plane. Wiki-link for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_CL-400_Suntan. If you're interested, try finding Ben Rich's Shunkworks. He spends a chapter talking about trying to build this thing (and all the wonderful fun they had playing with LH2... they apparently went ahead and did all the usual Liquid Nitrogen fun stuff... except with LH2).

Hybrid plane? (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118070)

So what is the advantage of a hybrid plane? Unless there has been some sort of breakthrough in battery technology, the extra weight your carrying around is going to use more energy. A discharged battery is not substantially lighter than a full one, whereas with liquid fuel tanks weigh a lot less when (nearly ) empty..

I guess you can get a bit of energy back on landing with regenerative braking, but not enough to make up for the extra weight.

Spare juice? (1)

jasno (124830) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118098)

Battery weight could certainly be an issue. I suppose though that you could start off fully charged on the ground and use that for a boost to get you aloft.

Something that comes to mind is that, AFAIK, in a hybrid system you try to keep the combustion engine turning at it's ideal RPM regardless of load. Assuming that's the case, would there be periods where you might have extra capacity beyond what's needed for the electric motors and other electrical systems? Let's assume there is - what do you do with it? Is there a good use for it? How about running an ozone generator in the upper atmosphere?

The long wing isn't supported by a truss. (1)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118518)

Not to be pedantic, but... OK, I'll be pedantic.

The long tube supporting the wing (on the ground) is called a strut, not a truss.

What surprises people is that the strut actually holds the wing down in flight. Saves you the weight of designing for massive bending moments at the fuselage at the expense of more drag in flight.

That was the trade off the Gossamer Condor made to become the first human powered aircraft to pass whatever milestone it did - rather than take the weight associated with an internally braced structure, they went for the much lighter weight they could achieve with external wire bracing. At their slow speed, the drag associated with the bracing was less than the drag that would have been created as a product of lifting a heavier aircraft.

Sure... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#33118824)

"The goal of the NASA supersonic research program is to find aircraft designs that will significantly reduce noise, nitrogen oxide emissions, fuel burn and air traffic congestion by the year 2035."

Reduce air traffic congestion?

What? Are they solar powered and only fly on the sunny side o' Earth?

The article mentioned both air-speed decreases and fueling/loading times lowered. Both of those mean more airtime, which in turn means more planes in the air at any given time. How does that equate to "reduced air traffic congestion"?

Or, is this a more meaningful of example of "whoosh!"?

Linked article is lacking details (3, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 4 years ago | (#33119430)

The press release is devoid of details, but a google search turns up that they're decoupling the jet engine (which generates the power) from the bypass fan (which generates most of the thrust) [aviationweek.com] .

For those not up to speed on jet engine technology, modern turbofans are essentially ducted propellers [wikipedia.org] . The engine itself occupies a small section in the center. It burns fuel and throws the air it consumes out the back at a higher speed. This generates about 20% of the total thrust. The rest of the energy goes into spinning the bypass fan blades. Just like a propeller, they grab large chunks of air which never goes through the combustion chamber, and push it out the back at higher speed to generate about 80% of the thrust.

In current engine designs, the blades of the two are locked together (although some of the compressor blades inside the engine may rotate at a different speed). For the bypass fan blades to be spinning, the engine must also be on and spinning. The idea behind this hybrid is to decouple them so they can operate independently of each other. The bypass fan would be spun using an electric motor. I don't know the numbers involved, but theoretically that would mean you could always run the jet engine at its most efficient RPM to generate electricity, and even turn it off if there's little thrust required and the batteries have enough juice to run the bypass fan (e.g. descent).
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