What will aviation look like in the future? Which materials will be used for the aircraft of tomorrow? With their innovative wing design, a research team from NASA and MIT has achieved a quantum leap that was previously impossible.

When it comes to the future of mobility, most people talk about the automotive industry. Air taxis, autonomous driving and electric mobility are often the focus of news, but NASA and MIT have surpassed themselves with their smart wing design. The new wing is not only lighter than conventional wings, it also has the potential to adapt to current flight conditions. This is made possible by a so-called mechanical “metamaterial” consisting of thousands of tiny polymer tiles. This makes aviation not only dynamic, but also cost-effective in production and maintenance.

Morphing wings of MIT and NASA (Source: NASA)
Morphing wings of MIT and NASA (Source: NASA)

The production was the real challenge, the many particles connected by struts must meet the complex requirements of aircraft wings and allow the aircraft to glide, climb and tilt. The design of MIT and NASA allows many new options. However, the idea is not new; the Wright brothers already used so-called morphing wings in their aircraft to steer, but not in the form of identical, fetching flows.

The result of the research work of the two giants is a mechanical metamaterial that has the stiffness of a conventional wing with the density of an aerogel. It is also possible to eliminate weight factors such as heavy actuators and cables for wing configuration, as the morphing wings can automatically assume the desired shape.

Development is still in its infancy, of course, but NASA and MIT may have taken a big step forward in aviation with their development. Thus, when it comes to the future of mobility, the focus is not only on flying taxis and the like, but also on smart morphing wings made of metamaterial.

 

Post picture: MIT/NASA

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