Pratt & Whitney on MIT Team Receiving Popular Mechanics Magazine's Breakthrough Innovator Award for Eco-Friendly Green Aircraft Design of the Future
Pratt & Whitney engineers are part of a team that today is receiving Popular Mechanics magazine's Breakthrough Innovator Award for designing a greener aircraft of the future that could use 70 percent less fuel than current planes while reducing noise and emissions. Pratt & Whitney is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) company.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-led team, which also includes Aurora Flight Sciences, is looking at the potential application of Pratt & Whitney's PurePower® geared turbofan™ technology as an integral part of the design for this eco-friendly narrowbody plane. The team's work is part of a $2.1 million NASA contract to deliver benefits for future single-aisle aircraft designs.
"It's possible that in the not-too-distant future, highly efficient aircraft will be designed based on a fuselage shape that's not round, as conventional aircraft are today, but incorporates two side-by-side cylinders that create an oval – or 'double bubble' – cross section," said Alan Epstein, Pratt & Whitney vice president, Technology & Environment, who is a MIT professor emeritus. "It's estimated that the advanced concept in airframe design could use significantly less fuel than the conventional shape while also reducing noise and emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx)."
The craft's unique "double bubble" fuselage dispenses with the tube-and-wing structure of current airplanes, providing extra lift while reducing drag. Three engines are located on the upper rear of the fuselage. This will allow the engines to ingest slower moving air, using less fuel than under-wing engines. The plane's body and tail will shield the engines, reducing noise. A model of the aircraft is undergoing tests in the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel.
The double bubble concept in-service target is currently set for 2035, by which time commercial air travel in the U.S. is expected to have doubled. As the project proceeds, the technology required to make the concept a reality will be a system game-changer.
"This integrated approach to vehicle and engine will yield vastly improved efficiencies compared to today's applications," said Epstein. "Pratt & Whitney's role on the MIT team strongly positions us to influence the technology that will define the future of air travel."
The MIT-led team is being honored at the Breakthrough Awards ceremony in New York on Oct. 5. Popular Mechanics' November issue cover will feature an artist's concept of the aircraft.
Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas turbines. United Technologies, based in Hartford, Conn., is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and commercial building industries.