MIT and NASA researchers have developed an airplane wing that can increase the efficiency of aircraft flight, production, and maintenance, according to MIT News. The airplane can change shape too. The wing designed by the MIT and NASA researchers would be able to move in its entirety. The researchers describe how they built an airplane wing from hundreds of identical, lightweight cube-like structures, all bolted together and then covered with a thin polymer material, the researchers explained in a paper published in the journal Smart Materials and Structures.
“We’re able to gain efficiency by matching the shape to the loads at different angles of attack,” says Cramer, the paper’s lead author. “We’re able to produce the exact same behaviour you would do actively, but we did it passively.”
Normal airplane wing, only parts of the wing, like flaps and ailerons, can move to change the plane's direction.
“The wing is made of hundreds of small, identical pieces that contain both rigid and flexible components which make it lighter and more efficient than traditional airplane wings. Since the wing could adjust to the particular characteristics of each stage of flight (take off, landing, steering, etc.), it could perform better than traditional wings, which are not designed to maximize performance during any part of a flight,” MIT news reported.
"We're able to gain efficiency by matching the shape to the loads at different angles of attack," NASA research engineer Nicholas Cramer told MIT News.
“The research shows promise for reducing cost and increasing the performance for large, lightweight, stiff structures,” Aurora Flight Sciences structures researcher Daniel Campbell, who wasn’t involved in the research, told MIT News. “Most promising near-term applications are structural applications for airships and space-based structures, such as antennas.”