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MIT’s Supersonic Biplane Pretty Darn Close to Teleporting


Airplane design has remained pretty standardized over the last century or so – sure, some people goof around with funky wings and weird engines, but for the most part the single-wing design has been large and in charge. Things are about to change.

Supersonic flight has long been the Holy Grail of air travel – we’ve done it before with the Concorde, but that plane was expensive to fly and made outrageously loud sonic booms when it passed the sound barrier. It was decommissioned in 2003, putting an end to commercial faster-than-sound travel.

A team at MIT, led by assistant professor Qiqi Wang, has a solution – and it reaches back to the earliest days of flying. The team has constructed a computer model of a revolutionary new biplane that will not only fly faster, but also use less fuel and eliminate those obnoxious booming sounds.

The science behind it is pretty simple – the booms and drag are caused by the same issue, shockwaves, caused by a sudden increase in air pressure as the plane nears the speed of sound. By splitting the wing, that air pressure is mitigated, pushing it through the central hole instead. That means the plane has to burn less fuel to overcome the resistance.

It’ll be quite some time until this airplane becomes a reality, but if it does the world of air travel is going to be drastically different. And a hell of a lot faster. They’ll just have to make security screenings take longer to make up for it.

[Via MIT]

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