MIT Scientists have performed the first successful flight using a solid state propulsion system.

Recently, MIT Scientists have performed the first successful flight using a solid state propulsion system. The solid state propulsion system makes no sound, requires no fossil fuels, and doesn’t have any moving parts that can break down. The solid state propulsion system uses ionized air to propel forward.

How it works

It works by a set of aerofoils that are electrically charged. The leading edge that ionizes the air uses a positive current of 2000 volts and a negative charge of 2000 volts that attracts the ionized air. Creating an ionized wind that propels the, heavier than air, aircraft.

What it means for the future

“This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system”, says Steven Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. “This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”.

He expects that in the near-term, such ion wind propulsion systems could be used to fly less noisy drones. Further out, he envisions ion propulsion paired with more conventional combustion systems to create more fuel-efficient, hybrid passenger planes, and other large aircraft.

Barrett and his team at MIT have published their results in the journal Nature.

To Boldly Inspire

Like many scientists and inventors, it started with Star Trek. Barrett says the inspiration for the team’s ion plane comes partly from the movie and television series Star Trek, which he watched avidly as a kid. He was particularly drawn to the futuristic shuttlecrafts that effortlessly skimmed through the air, with seemingly no moving parts, and hardly any noise or exhaust.

“This made me think, in the long-term future, planes shouldn’t have propellers and turbines,” Barrett says. “They should be more like the shuttles in Star Trek, that have just a blue glow and silently glide.”