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SCIENCE: Ion drive aircraft flight infographic
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Ion plane flies with no moving parts

11/23/2018
Graphic News

November 23, 2018 -- A team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully flown the first aircraft with no moving parts. The model plane uses “ionic wind” propulsion that creates no emissions.

The flow of ions is produced aboard the plane and generates enough thrust to propel the plane over a sustained, steady flight, according to engineers.

Unlike turbine-powered planes, the aircraft does not depend on fossil fuels to fly. And unlike propeller-driven drones, the new design is completely silent.

The MIT airplane has a series of thin wires at the front that generate a powerful electric field. The field strips electrons from air molecules, turning the molecules into positively charged particles called ions. Those ions flow toward negatively charged parts of the plane, colliding with ordinary air molecules and transferring energy to them. That produces a wind that provides thrust for the plane.


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