Author Topic: Technologies that will shape the future of aviation and space exploration  (Read 44474 times)

Offline Prober

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NASA just awarded SBIRs for converting ISRU products (oxygen, methane, hydrogen, water, CO2, etc) into plastics. And since plastics contain carbon, that means from CO2 on Mars.

Here are two of them:
http://sbir.nasa.gov/SBIR/abstracts/16/sbir/phase1/SBIR-16-1-H1.01-8453.html
PROPOSAL TITLE:   ISP3: In-Situ Printing Plastic Production System for Space Additive Manufacturing


and

http://sbir.nasa.gov/SBIR/abstracts/16/sbir/phase1/SBIR-16-1-H1.01-8191.html
PROPOSAL TITLE:   Compact In-Situ Polyethylene Production from Carbon Dioxide
Mars is of course a different matter all together. There is no other source of hydrocarbons there (other than some methane). Bringing it over would cost too much. So of course you need to produce it there.
There is no alternative. It will take a long time though to get relatively moderate amounts of plastic that way. But then all metrics are somehow different anyway when it comes to mars.

For aviation, the single new technology that will shape the future of aviation is improved lithium batteries.

Particularly lithium-air, which (along with electricity's high efficiency and other things) can allow electric flight for just as long as current jet liners. And at the same speeds. And potentially /faster/ speeds than current airliners.

Nearer term, really good lithium-ion and lithium-sulfur.
I agree with you on that one. Better batteries would be an enabling technology for many things related to aerospace. Depending on energy and power density, it might affect the way we do spaceflight too.


Polylactic acid has been widely adopted for 3D Printing (off the shelf solution).  There are others for this application.

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I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. ~ by Thomas Alva Edison

Offline Robotbeat

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Battery technology is already much more advanced that most people in this realm realize. Batteries are still considered second-class.

Which is why the electric airliner will catch those folk (who should know better) by surprise. Again. That's why I think even better batteries will dramatically shape the future of aviation.

Keeping this discussion on-topic..  ;)

Whilst I've no doubt battery technology is already well advanced, as I people ointed out earlier, the real issue for aviation applications is getting the power (especially megawatts of take-off power!) out of the battery to somewhere it can be useful without losing most of it in the process. ..and ISTM they have yet to work that problem out.

..and until they get a good deal lighter, yes, batteries will always be considered second-class.

Where did you get the idea that batteries are low power? Megawatts isn't hard when you have enough battery capacity for long duration flight, and good induction motors are competitive with jet turbines for specific power.

If anything, batteries give you MORE power for takeoff. The few electric aircraft available boast about high power for takeoff vs their conventional cousins.

That's why the long-range Tesla Model S P100D crushes every other production car on the road. It can harness a good half a Megawatt all by itself. And an electric airliner will have roughly two dozen times as much capacity. Megawatts is no problem. The problem remains capacity, and so initial electric airliners will be used for short-haul as we develop the higher capacity lithium-air batteries.
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Offline Prober

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Battery technology is already much more advanced that most people in this realm realize. Batteries are still considered second-class.

Which is why the electric airliner will catch those folk (who should know better) by surprise. Again. That's why I think even better batteries will dramatically shape the future of aviation.

Keeping this discussion on-topic..  ;)

Whilst I've no doubt battery technology is already well advanced, as I people ointed out earlier, the real issue for aviation applications is getting the power (especially megawatts of take-off power!) out of the battery to somewhere it can be useful without losing most of it in the process. ..and ISTM they have yet to work that problem out.

..and until they get a good deal lighter, yes, batteries will always be considered second-class.

Where did you get the idea that batteries are low power? Megawatts isn't hard when you have enough battery capacity for long duration flight, and good induction motors are competitive with jet turbines for specific power.

If anything, batteries give you MORE power for takeoff. The few electric aircraft available boast about high power for takeoff vs their conventional cousins.

That's why the long-range Tesla Model S P100D crushes every other production car on the road. It can harness a good half a Megawatt all by itself. And an electric airliner will have roughly two dozen times as much capacity. Megawatts is no problem. The problem remains capacity, and so initial electric airliners will be used for short-haul as we develop the higher capacity lithium-air batteries.


There are alternatives out there with better power/weight, and without the dangers of fire of lithium batteries.

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I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. ~ by Thomas Alva Edison

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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There are alternatives out there with better power/weight, and without the dangers of fire of lithium batteries.
Like?
I find this development rather interesting:
http://news.mit.edu/2016/lithium-metal-batteries-double-power-consumer-electronics-0817
« Last Edit: 08/30/2016 04:34 PM by Elmar Moelzer »

Offline Robotbeat

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Battery technology is already much more advanced that most people in this realm realize. Batteries are still considered second-class.

Which is why the electric airliner will catch those folk (who should know better) by surprise. Again. That's why I think even better batteries will dramatically shape the future of aviation.

Keeping this discussion on-topic..  ;)

Whilst I've no doubt battery technology is already well advanced, as I people ointed out earlier, the real issue for aviation applications is getting the power (especially megawatts of take-off power!) out of the battery to somewhere it can be useful without losing most of it in the process. ..and ISTM they have yet to work that problem out.

..and until they get a good deal lighter, yes, batteries will always be considered second-class.

Where did you get the idea that batteries are low power? Megawatts isn't hard when you have enough battery capacity for long duration flight, and good induction motors are competitive with jet turbines for specific power.

If anything, batteries give you MORE power for takeoff. The few electric aircraft available boast about high power for takeoff vs their conventional cousins.

That's why the long-range Tesla Model S P100D crushes every other production car on the road. It can harness a good half a Megawatt all by itself. And an electric airliner will have roughly two dozen times as much capacity. Megawatts is no problem. The problem remains capacity, and so initial electric airliners will be used for short-haul as we develop the higher capacity lithium-air batteries.


There are alternatives out there with better power/weight, and without the dangers of fire of lithium batteries.
As I established, we don't care about better power/weight, as it's already more than good enough. We care about energy to weight.

Additionally, lithium batteries, properly managed, are less of a fire risk than liquid fuels.
« Last Edit: 08/30/2016 04:36 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline CameronD

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Battery technology is already much more advanced that most people in this realm realize. Batteries are still considered second-class.

Which is why the electric airliner will catch those folk (who should know better) by surprise. Again. That's why I think even better batteries will dramatically shape the future of aviation.

Keeping this discussion on-topic..  ;)

Whilst I've no doubt battery technology is already well advanced, as I pointed out earlier, the real issue for aviation applications is getting the power (especially megawatts of take-off power!) out of the battery to somewhere it can be useful without losing most of it in the process. ..and ISTM they have yet to work that problem out.

..and until they get a good deal lighter, yes, batteries will always be considered second-class.

Where did you get the idea that batteries are low power? Megawatts isn't hard when you have enough battery capacity for long duration flight, and good induction motors are competitive with jet turbines for specific power.

Pls re-read my post.  I'm not claiming "batteries are low power", I'm claiming that the elephant-in-the-room issue is transporting that power from the batteries to the induction motors

Conventional technology for doing this (as used in most EVs, including Telsa ones) uses copper bus-bar - and copper is heavy: very, impractically, heavy when you consider the megawatts of power (not kW as required by a car) needing to be transferred to your induction motors located many metres away from the power source.  Heavy enough that, even if it worked, your resultant aircraft probably won't leave the runway fully-loaded.  Note that "heavy" isn't an issue for ground transport - in fact in some applications like truck and rail, it can be a good and helpful thing - that's why any comparison with ground transport is meaningless.

True, there are other methods to transfer large amounts of power over short distances like generating a high voltage/high frequency plasma (which isn't possible using batteries) and piping it to the motors or using incredibly expensive and extremely fragile high-temp superconductors that wouldn't survive the take-off roll... but most of these methods, on paper at least, generate impossibly large electric fields in the confines of a conventional airframe that would disrupt the aircraft's avionics, passenger's pacemakers, entertainment screens and mobile phones and otherwise generally wreak havoc.
   
Yes, megawatts is very hard.  That's why there are no electric-powered airliners yet.  ::)

With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline Robotbeat

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Bus bar?? No, you'd use high voltage aluminum wire. A very small fraction of the weight you're imagining. You simply design the system to have high enough voltage so the weight of the wiring isn't a major drawback.  And doesn't have to be long, either, the batteries can be fairly near the motors, whether in the wings or fuselage.

High frequency plasma? Why. You're overthinking this.
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Offline CameronD

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Bus bar?? No, you'd use high voltage aluminum wire. A very small fraction of the weight you're imagining. You simply design the system to have high enough voltage so the weight of the wiring isn't a major drawback.  And doesn't have to be long, either, the batteries can be fairly near the motors, whether in the wings or fuselage.

High frequency plasma? Why. You're overthinking this.

Maybe I am.. but I'm still curious to know how high a voltage you're thinking of.

I haven't got the time to run the numbers properly now, but for a quick BOTE calculation for 50MW (the approx. generation capacity of a GE CF-6 at take-off power) could mean 50kV DC @ 1000 Amps - and 1000 Amps worth of aluminium wire is still a hunking great chunk of metal.

I'm also not sure (a) whether you could string enough fancy Lithium batteries together to generate 50kV @ 1000 Amps and still fit it on an airplane (and that's only one engine worth, remember) and (b) whether the high-voltage motor control systems required are possible at >50kVDC with even near-future technology.  Still, even if incredibly inefficient and impractical, it's an interesting concept... :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current
« Last Edit: 08/31/2016 05:12 AM by CameronD »
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline CameronD

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Where did you get the idea that batteries are low power? Megawatts isn't hard when you have enough battery capacity for long duration flight, and good induction motors are competitive with jet turbines for specific power.

If anything, batteries give you MORE power for takeoff. The few electric aircraft available boast about high power for takeoff vs their conventional cousins.

That's why the long-range Tesla Model S P100D crushes every other production car on the road. It can harness a good half a Megawatt all by itself. And an electric airliner will have roughly two dozen times as much capacity. Megawatts is no problem. The problem remains capacity, and so initial electric airliners will be used for short-haul as we develop the higher capacity lithium-air batteries.

Just came across this article on a 100MW lithium battery (roughly enough for an average twin-jet) to be built in SoCal.  Of note is:
Quote
The battery will be installed in one large building at the Alamitos Power Center in Long Beach, Calif
Quote
Zahurancik confirmed that, to the company's knowledge, this is the largest grid-scale electrochemical battery in development. DOE energy storage archives confirm this as well.

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/The-Worlds-Biggest-Battery-is-Being-Built-in-Southern-California

Somehow I don't think that's going in a plane anytime soon!  ;D
« Last Edit: 08/31/2016 06:00 AM by CameronD »
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline Asteroza

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Graphene platelets spun up as fibers for a wire are semi-practical now, that give decent performance at much lower weight. If graphane can be reasonably produced to make matching insulation, then that is a path towards the transmission infrastructure internally to make E-planes happen without superconductors.

As a reminder, ESaero took part in the NASA N+3  aviation tech study, and illustrated a closing series hybrid electric aircraft design using superconducting motors and generators. After the study ESaero went back and using updates in conventional motor/generator tech, made a new closing design in the 737 class (viewable as an image on their home page, a C-130-esqe craft with half the wing being boxed propulsors and the generator turbine mounted halfway on the wing). ESaero is currently working with Joby Aviation on the NASA X-57 Maxwell electric distributed propulsion demonstrator (which currently is battery only?), so it's already edging into the realm of the possible without fancy wires.

Offline Robotbeat

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Where did you get the idea that batteries are low power? Megawatts isn't hard when you have enough battery capacity for long duration flight, and good induction motors are competitive with jet turbines for specific power.

If anything, batteries give you MORE power for takeoff. The few electric aircraft available boast about high power for takeoff vs their conventional cousins.

That's why the long-range Tesla Model S P100D crushes every other production car on the road. It can harness a good half a Megawatt all by itself. And an electric airliner will have roughly two dozen times as much capacity. Megawatts is no problem. The problem remains capacity, and so initial electric airliners will be used for short-haul as we develop the higher capacity lithium-air batteries.

Just came across this article on a 100MW lithium battery (roughly enough for an average twin-jet) to be built in SoCal.  Of note is:
Quote
The battery will be installed in one large building at the Alamitos Power Center in Long Beach, Calif
Quote
Zahurancik confirmed that, to the company's knowledge, this is the largest grid-scale electrochemical battery in development. DOE energy storage archives confirm this as well.

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/The-Worlds-Biggest-Battery-is-Being-Built-in-Southern-California

Somehow I don't think that's going in a plane anytime soon!  ;D
Why would you use a grid battery to power an airplane? They're optimized for different uses.

Also, airplanes are the size of a building. 5 airplanes is the size of a large building.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Bus bar?? No, you'd use high voltage aluminum wire. A very small fraction of the weight you're imagining. You simply design the system to have high enough voltage so the weight of the wiring isn't a major drawback.  And doesn't have to be long, either, the batteries can be fairly near the motors, whether in the wings or fuselage.

High frequency plasma? Why. You're overthinking this.

Maybe I am.. but I'm still curious to know how high a voltage you're thinking of.

I haven't got the time to run the numbers properly now, but for a quick BOTE calculation for 50MW (the approx. generation capacity of a GE CF-6 at take-off power) could mean 50kV DC @ 1000 Amps - and 1000 Amps worth of aluminium wire is still a hunking great chunk of metal.

I'm also not sure (a) whether you could string enough fancy Lithium batteries together to generate 50kV @ 1000 Amps and still fit it on an airplane (and that's only one engine worth, remember) and (b) whether the high-voltage motor control systems required are possible at >50kVDC with even near-future technology.  Still, even if incredibly inefficient and impractical, it's an interesting concept... :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current
It's also possible to liquid-cool the wires, which greatly enhances the power carrying capacity and reduces the wiring mass.

The induction motor on the Tesla Model S is liquid-cooled. And Tesla has, in the past, installed some Supercharger stations with liquid-cooled power cables which make them easier to handle.

It should be noted that Supercharging operates at over 300 Amps over a single cable. An electric aircraft is likely to have several motors (perhaps even a dozen, if distributed propulsion takes off. heh.).
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Offline CameronD

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It's also possible to liquid-cool the wires, which greatly enhances the power carrying capacity and reduces the wiring mass.

That leaves only the enormous magnetic fields to content with. ..and one tiny lightning hit might ruin your entire day.  ::)

I give in: Sure, it may be possible to overcome the hurdles outlined and produce an electric airliner... but it's certainly not an easy road - at least at the outset.

Here I find an interesting parallel with the end of the steam age: Steam engines at the end of the era, both triple-expansion and turbine type, were engineered to perfection and were (and still are!) incredibly efficient at converting live steam into water vapour for maximum output.  Then someone demonstrated 'internal combustion' and changed everything.

Internal combustion aircraft engine technology has, IMHO, gone almost as far as it can converting jet fuel into water vapour for maximum output to the point that engine manufacturers now seem to spend their time focusing on other ways to make them better ('green fuel, low noise, low emissions') that has little to do with performance.  Since  'green fuel, low noise, low emissions' are all an integral part of hybrid/electric engine tech, I, for one, will be watching with professional interest because perhaps that's the game-changer they're looking for.


EDIT:  It still astounds me that in 2016 you can produce enough electrical power from a box smaller than a single-car garage to power an entire town.  ..and then we bolt two of these things (minus the alternator and gearbox) on either side of a B767 airframe and sit back, relax and watch the world go by on either side of the runway.
« Last Edit: 09/01/2016 05:17 AM by CameronD »
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline CameronD

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It should be noted that Supercharging operates at over 300 Amps over a single cable. An electric aircraft is likely to have several motors (perhaps even a dozen, if distributed propulsion takes off. heh.).

It's amazing how quickly these technologies take wings.. (pun intended)

http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasas-x-57-electric-research-plane
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline Robotbeat

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It should be noted that Supercharging operates at over 300 Amps over a single cable. An electric aircraft is likely to have several motors (perhaps even a dozen, if distributed propulsion takes off. heh.).

It's amazing how quickly these technologies take wings.. (pun intended)

http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasas-x-57-electric-research-plane
Precisely.
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Offline wizzard3

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on batteries

these to videos show a batterie  that in a year wil be in mass production



Offline Asteroza

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In the slightly more mundane category, Aurora is now pushing ahead with a half scale demonstrator of their D8 double bubble fuselage design, which might be assigned an X-plane number by NASA.

http://www.aurora.aero/D8/

http://www.aurora.aero/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/APR334_NASA-D8-Funding-1.pdf
« Last Edit: 09/15/2016 10:00 AM by Asteroza »

Offline KelvinZero

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It's amazing how quickly these technologies take wings.. (pun intended)

http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasas-x-57-electric-research-plane
It mentions a "five time reduction in energy requirements".. thats pretty incredible.. maybe they will produce a pedal powered version :)

Offline CameronD

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It's amazing how quickly these technologies take wings.. (pun intended)

http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasas-x-57-electric-research-plane
It mentions a "five time reduction in energy requirements".. thats pretty incredible.. maybe they will produce a pedal powered version :)

Heh.  Sounds more like someone in NASA's PAO got a little bit over-excited.. :)
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline Robotbeat

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It's amazing how quickly these technologies take wings.. (pun intended)

http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nasas-x-57-electric-research-plane
It mentions a "five time reduction in energy requirements".. thats pretty incredible.. maybe they will produce a pedal powered version :)

Heh.  Sounds more like someone in NASA's PAO got a little bit over-excited.. :)
It's not an exaggeration. If you include improvements to lift/drag ratio (the air intake for propeller-driven internal combustion engine general aviation aircraft is high drag in and of itself, so its elimination helps a lot), structural efficiency, much better streamlining and a better wing, and the fact that general aviation aircraft engines are maybe 30% efficient on a good day (versus >90% for battery-to-shaft for a good setup), you could easily get five times the range for a given amount of energy.
« Last Edit: 09/16/2016 01:14 AM by Robotbeat »
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