Feeds

Supersonic silent biplane COMING SOON ...ish

Boffins meld old with new to snuff out sonic boom

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Aviation experts are coming up with a 60-year-old solution to a modern problem - how to create a cheap, fuel-efficient and quiet supersonic aeroplane. This is their breakthrough solution:

US Navy biplane in flight in December 1934

US Navy biplane in flight in December 1934

Researchers from MIT and Stanford have shown via computer modelling that a modified biplane can produce significantly less drag than a single-wing craft, improving the fuel efficiency and quietening that sonic boom. However Qiqi Wang, his MIT colleague Rui Hu and Antony Jameson of Stanford University admit that it's not the first time someone has suggested biplanes could sort out the sonic problems.

Back in the 1950s, German engineer Adolf Busemann was the first to come up with a biplane design that thwarts shockwaves at supersonic speeds. The problem with a regular single-wing aeroplane is that as the jet nears the speed of sound, air compresses in front of and behind it, and when the plane goes past Mach 1, the sudden increase in air pressure sends two shockwaves radiating out.

“The sonic boom is really the shockwaves created by the supersonic airplanes, propagated to the ground,” Wang said in a canned statement. “It’s like hearing gunfire. It’s so annoying that supersonic jets were not allowed to fly over land.”

Busemann showed that with a biplane, the configuration of the top and bottom wings would cancel out the shockwaves of each other. But because the wings create a small space for air to go through, when the biplane is still going below the speed of sound but getting faster, the wings could "choke", creating huge drag.

Wang, Hu and Jameson came up with a computer model to simulate the biplane's performance at every speed along the way, so that they could compile the results into a shape for each wing that would allow the supersonic biplane to fly at all speeds.

If the supersonic jet has smooth inner surfaces on the wings, then that widens the channel through which air can flow, and if the top edge of the top wing and the bottom edge of the lower wing is bumped out, the plane can fly faster than sound with half the drag of a single-wing aircraft like the Concorde.

Conceptual drawing of silent supersonic aircraft

Conceptual drawing of a silent supersonic aircraft.

Credit: Institute of Fluid Science, Tohoku University

Less drag would not only get rid of the sonic boom problem, it could reduce the amount of fuel needed for each flight as well, Wang said.

His team is working on the best design for a supersonic plane, but he pointed out that there is also a team in Japan that's trying to design a biplane with moving wings, so they can change mid-flight to minimise drag.

“Now people are having more ideas on how to improve [Busemann’s] design,” Wang said. “This may lead to a dramatic improvement, and there may be a boom in the field in the coming years.” ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.