Shapshifting Aircraft Wings

Shapshifting Aircraft Wings

Author: Veronika Belusa

Reducing the amount of fuel an airplane needs, is of interest to any airline and also helps to protect the environment. The EU project Smart Intelligent Aircraft Structures (SARISTU) aims to reduce kerosene consumption by 6 %.

Aircraft wing components have so far all been rigid. These include landing flaps which are found at the trailing edge of the wing and are extended for landing. The only movement of these components is to rotate around an axis. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM, Bremen, Germany, created landing flaps containing of five hard and three soft zones, enclosed within a silicon skin cover. This allows the flap to change shape and by this they can adjust to the air flow and enhance the aerodynamics of the aircraft. The flexible parts are made of elastomeric foam that retains their elasticity even at temperatures ranging from minus 55 – 80 °C. The scientists are currently testing four 90 cm long prototypes.

Scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems (ENAS), Chemnitz, Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the Italian Aerospace Research Center (CIRA) and the University of Naples, Italy, programmed algorithms to control the required shape modifications in flight.

Image: © Fraunhofer IFAM

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