NASA Researches Turboelectric Powerplants For Airplanes

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Excess power generated by turbine engines that now goes to waste could be used to generate electricity, according to researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland. The electricity then could be used to generate additional thrust. “These hybrid systems use electric motors and generators that work together with turbine engines to distribute power throughout the aircraft, in order to reduce drag for a given amount of fuel burned,” says Amy Jankovsky, lead engineer for the project. The technology could help to increase fuel efficiency by up to 30 percent for large airplanes, NASA said.

Besides designing new motors, generators and electrical systems, engineers at Glenn are conducting research into the basic materials that go into those components, such as conductors, insulation and system architectures. These advanced materials and systems will help to make motors and electronics lighter and more efficient. “Aircraft are highly complex machines,” says Jim Heidmann, manager for NASA’s Advanced Air Transport Technology project. “Moving toward alternative systems requires creating new aircraft designs as well as propulsion systems that integrate battery technologies and electromagnetic machines like motors and generators with more efficient engines.”

(NOTE: There is no sound with this NASA video.)

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