Madeleine Cuff writes on the inews website about latest developments in China where scientists have designed a new kind of jet engine that could fly planes halfway around the world without emitting fossil fuels. What are your views?
Scientists in China target emissions-free flight with air plasma jet engine
Scientists have designed a new kind of jet engine that could fly planes halfway around the world without emitting fossil fuels.
The prototype, dreamed up by engineers at Wuhan University in China, relies on thrusters powered by compressed air and electricity to create zero carbon flight.
Flying is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers have spent years hunting for low-carbon technologies to cut flying’s carbon footprint, but finding a fuel source that is powerful enough to carry a full-sized passenger jet has proved elusive.
“Although electric motors are used in electric cars or small drones to power their motion, they are unpractical to power large aircrafts,” author Dr Jau Tang told i.
Dr Tang and his colleagues believe the answer to low carbon flight lies in something called microwave air plasmas. Their research is published in the journal AIP Advances.
Beyond solid, liquid and gas, plasma is the fourth state of matter. It’s a form of electrically charged gas, which when activated can cause surges of energy.
Plasma jet thrusters have been used before to power NASA probes in outer space, but they were not powerful enough to fuel flight within the earth’s atmosphere.
The team believes it has solved this problem by designing a thruster that creates plasma mid-air, by compressing air into high pressures and using a microwave to charge it. If scaled up, it can create enough thrust to match a commercial jet engine, the scientists claim.
“Unlike fossil fuels, air is free and is clean with no carbon emissions,” Dr Tang said. “Air is present in the atmosphere and there is no need to carry large and heavy fuel tanks as in the conventional airplanes.”
“Our results demonstrated that such a jet engine based on microwave air plasma can be a potentially viable alternative to the conventional fossil fuel jet engine,” he concluded.
More work is needed to improve the prototype’s efficiency before it can be tried in a full-sized jet, and getting enough electricity to the engine to create plasma could also be a challenge. But if it can work on a large scale, it could usher in an era of guilt-free flying.