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New supersonic airplane may speed up travel in the future

A conceptual drawing of a supersonic biplane based on an original drawing from Obayashi laboratory, Tohoku University.


Christine Daniloff

Researchers at MIT have created computer simulations of a "biplane," with a double layered wing reminiscent of WWI fighter planes, that may help speed up the future air travel.

The new plane, designed by Qiqi Wang, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, could reach supersonic cruising speeds without causing sonic booms, a key drawback of other high speed planes.

"The sonic boom is really the shock waves created by the supersonic airplanes, propagated to the ground," Wang said, according to MSNBC. "It's like hearing gunfire. It's so annoying that supersonic jets were not allowed to fly over land."

Wang says that his team built upon the design of German engineer Adolf Busemann, who originally envisioned triangular, double-layered wings that cancelled out the shock waves that cause sonic booms.

The team of researchers found that Busemann's design, however, original, lacked lift.

According to Science Daily, Wang's team set about correcting the wing formation in order to allow the plane to reduce drag and increase lift at any speed.

“If you think about it, when you take off, not only do you have to carry the passengers, but also the fuel, and if you can reduce the fuel burn, you can reduce how much fuel you need to carry, which in turn reduces the size of the structure you need to carry the fuel,” Wang said, according to PhysOrg. “It’s kind of a chain reaction.”

According to Discovery, Wang's team is not alone in attempting to revive supersonic jets. In June, the French aerospace company EADS unveiled their own plans for a high speed aircraft.

The MIT team will publish their results in the Journal of Aircraft.


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