Future aircraft could capture and re-use own power
Future aircraft could contribute to their power needs by harnessing energy from the wheel rotation of their landing gear to generate electricity, it has been found.
According to researchers at the University of Lincoln, planes could use this to power their taxiing to and from airport buildings, reducing the need to use their jet engines. This would save on aviation fuel, cut emissions and reduce noise pollution at airports.
"Taxiing is a highly fuel inefficient part of any trip by plane with emissions and noise pollution caused by jet engines being a huge issue for airports all over the world," said Professor Paul Stewart, who led the research. "If the next generation of aircraft that emerges over the next 15 to 20 years could incorporate this kind of technology, it would deliver enormous benefits, especially for people living near airports.
"Currently, commercial aircraft spend a lot of time on the ground with their noisy jet engines running. In the future this technology could significantly reduce the need to do that."
The university's research formed part of a project that aimed to assess the basic feasibility of as many ways of capturing energy from a landing aircraft as possible.
"When an Airbus 320 lands, for example, a combination of its weight and speed gives it around three megawatts peak available power," Prof Stewart explained. "We explored a wide variety of ways of harnessing that energy, such as generating electricity from the interaction between copper coils embedded in the runway and magnets attached to the underside of the aircraft, and then feeding the power produced into the local electricity grid."
The study showed that capturing energy direct from a plane's landing gear and recycling it for the aircraft's own use really could work, particularly if integrated with new technologies related to the more-electric or all-electric aircraft.
Prof Stewart maintained, however, that a number of technical challenges would need to be overcome first. The main obstacle, he says, is weight.
The project was carried out under the auspices of the EPSRC funded Airport Energy Technologies Network and was undertaken in collaboration with researchers at Loughborough University.
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