Jetting towards a cleaner, greener era for aviation
Do you live near an airport or fly regularly? Even if you don't, new research that promises to lead to improved aircraft aerodynamics will benefit us all. It will ultimately enable planes to be built that are less noisy, use less fuel and pollute less – a win-win situation for society, the environment and the aviation industry.
Aerodynamics is a branch of fluid dynamics, the study of how gases move, such as air flowing under an aircraft wing, wind through a wind turbine or water through a hydroelectric dam.
It is an increasingly important area of research as better fluid dynamic designs will probably have a major impact on everything from energy consumption and efficiency to the safety and longevity of a wide variety of applications and devices, from cars and aircraft to industrial machines.
Two leading players in the field have now joined forces in EU-funded project STA-DY-WI-CO to help ensure those myriad benefits become a reality. The Institute of Fluid Flow Machinery of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IMP PAN) and LMS International, a Belgian company specialised in fluid dynamics research, have come together to share knowledge and carry out cutting-edge science.
The two partners are using their complementary areas of expertise to develop state-of-the-art fluid control technology. They are working with novel materials, simulation techniques, processes, and components such as micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS), specifically with the aviation and wind turbine sectors in mind.
Less pollution, lower fuel consumption, less noise.
”The most important topic in fluid dynamics research is related to aviation,” explains project coordinator Prof. Piotr Doerffer of IMP PAN. “In this respect, reducing emissions and weight are the key issues, as well as reducing noise, and therefore the topics being worked on in this project are at the core of research innovation for aviation.”
Together, the partners are contributing to a variety of aviation-related initiatives, such as the Clean Sky project, which aims to develop a green helicopter that produces 25% to 40% fewer emissions per flight and halves the noise footprint of current helicopter designs.
And they have made several key breakthroughs in synthetic jet technology – a kind of jet flow created by the air itself that could have a wide variety of applications in aeronautics and other fields. The partners are considering mutually patenting elements of the technology.
Meanwhile, in energy generation applications such as wind turbines, work being carried out in STA-DY-WI-CO is expected to lead to better flow control of the turbine blades, which has potential to significantly increase energy production.
“Knowledge transfer between the partners has been a key benefit of the STA-DY-WI-CO project,” Prof. Doerffer says. “IMP PAN has scientific knowledge about the research field of aeronautics, while LMS has very close cooperation with industry and has pointed out the topics that are important and interesting for research.”
Experienced researchers, as members of the project, offer not only knowledge but also a fresh view on the investigated topics, he observes.
As a by-product of their collaboration, IMP PAN researchers are starting to use engineering tools developed by LMS, and may extend their use across Poland through cooperation with several companies.
This sort of cooperation provides a valuable bridge between academia and industry, and eases the transition from laboratory prototypes to real-world applications.