It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


MIT and NASA engineers demonstrate a new kind of airplane wing

page: 1
<<   2 >>

log in


posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:00 PM

Instead of requiring separate movable surfaces such as ailerons to control the roll and pitch of the plane, as conventional wings do, the new assembly system makes it possible to deform the whole wing, or parts of it, by incorporating a mix of stiff and flexible components in its structure. The tiny subassemblies, which are bolted together to form an open, lightweight lattice framework, are then covered with a thin layer of similar polymer material as the framework.

The result is a wing that is much lighter, and thus much more energy efficient, than those with conventional designs, whether made from metal or composites, the researchers say. Because the structure, comprising thousands of tiny triangles of matchstick-like struts, is composed mostly of empty space, it forms a mechanical “metamaterial” that combines the structural stiffness of a rubber-like polymer and the extreme lightness and low density of an aerogel.

Jenett explains that for each of the phases of a flight — takeoff and landing, cruising, maneuvering and so on — each has its own, different set of optimal wing parameters, so a conventional wing is necessarily a compromise that is not optimized for any of these, and therefore sacrifices efficiency. A wing that is constantly deformable could provide a much better approximation of the best configuration for each stage.

While it would be possible to include motors and cables to produce the forces needed to deform the wings, the team has taken this a step further and designed a system that automatically responds to changes in its aerodynamic loading conditions by shifting its shape — a sort of self-adjusting, passive wing-reconfiguration process., news, March 31, 2019 - MIT and NASA engineers demonstrate a new kind of airplane wing.

A new wing that purposely deforms! That is a crazy concept! The photo up shows a golden wing shape made up of triangles (oh brother! TEOT and his triangles!) in the wind tunnel. They said that the wing was assembled by hand but because the parts are similar shaped that assembly by machine could be done.

Remember the triangle shaped planes that could link up in flight? (BAE, IIRC). That is a crazy concept. This is as crazy but even better. A self-similar pattern creating a metamaterial that passively configures itself to fly... well that is really crazy cool!!

They mentioned "airship" and "antenna" in the story for use of this metamaterial. I would also think giant space based telescope might be another good use.

This is interesting news out of MIT and NASA. Radically different thinking gets you a new airplane wing design!

And a metamaterial based on the triangle shape... hum...

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:06 PM

Credit: Kenny Cheung, NASA Ames Research Center (

The name of the photo is: MIT Morphing Wing!

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:08 PM

Pretty soon aircraft will be something out of Flight of the Navigator.

The whole planeform will transform depending upon what's needed using liquid metals.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:09 PM

But, but birds had it first!
And they never thought to mentioned that word once.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:10 PM
Looks like they've been working on this for a while now

They've come a long ways.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:10 PM

ACTE 2014

Flexible adaptive wings have been the holy grail of efficiency since the Mission Adaptive Wing in the 1980s.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:13 PM
a reply to: grey580

That and controlled by the mind!

I think that metamaterials need some merit first before liquid metal but check it out (it is still pretty cool!) - ‘Terminator’-Like Liquid Metal Moves, Stretches.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:17 PM
The Wright Brothers applied for a patent in March 1903 for their method of controlling an aircraft in flight, which included wing warping. The patent was granted in 1906.

Further proof that the Wrights were MANY years ahead of their time.
edit on 1-4-2019 by TheTruthRocks because: Because.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:24 PM
a reply to: Zaphod58

I was going to post in Aircraft forum but the metamaterial side of it said, "Technology".

Wing deflect, sag, etc. but are mostly rigid and fixed. This is even more so! I like the notion of "what type of stress the structure is under is what its shape will be"

5 years ago? Looks like they finally have a material that can flex back. I would love to see the single seat version in flight! Thanks for link! Off to read Flight Global!

Might be good for drones too! Since it is really light weight.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:36 PM
a reply to: TheTruthRocks

You beat me to it. The materials of the time just weren't up to the needs, perhaps we've come full circle?

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:41 PM
a reply to: BomSquad

If the Wrights could see what's possible today, they would fall to their knees in astonishment.

If you haven't yet read The Wright Brothers (McCullough), I cannot recommend it enough.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 12:43 PM
a reply to: Zaphod58

You beat me to it. Wasn't NASA's F-111 the test bed for that?

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 01:09 PM
link, news, Nov. 3, 2016 - A new twist on airplane wing design.

That was the original story about flexible wings (shows them twisting on a model).

It looks like their new story is to announce they have done better than they had hoped in creating the new injection molding method. They also moved away from traditional fuselage/wing to more of a flying wing design. Same researchers at MIT and Ames (an MIT alumni there).

Must be important since they have spent 2 years on making improvements!

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 01:16 PM
a reply to: JIMC5499

I think they used it for early tests. They used an EF as well.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 01:22 PM

There are some interesting videos as well.

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 02:46 PM
a reply to: All

I haven't found any test videos of the MIT/NASA wing. But the below is a good read if you are interested in airplane wings

Here is a write up by the engineer who invented FlexFoil - Future Airplanes Will Fly On Twistable Wings.

Details about what was replaced and why. Explains how he came up with the idea in the first place. It is a long read but covers a lot of ground. Like Orville laying on the wing and adjusting it with his hips! To getting a prototype up and running. He details safety and how over board the tests were.

And it is not overly technical. Just long!

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 02:55 PM
an this new wing tech - accommodate fuel tanks , engine pylons , weapons hardpoints ?

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 02:57 PM

originally posted by: grey580
Looks like they've been working on this for a while now [...] They've come a long ways.

Bending the wing was how the Wright Brothers steered their plane. That's progress!

posted on Apr, 1 2019 @ 03:11 PM
a reply to: ignorant_ape

Cheung and others demonstrated the basic underlying principle a few years ago, producing a wing about a meter long, comparable to the size of typical remote-controlled model aircraft. The new version, about five times as long, is comparable in size to the wing of a real single-seater plane and could be easy to manufacture.

Source:, @OP

The one fabricated could handle it. They have about reached their limit in size at the wind tunnel they are at.

The actual frame would have to be built around the wing design. I don't think they are ready for a test flight under their own power. This was all wind tunnel tests on the new design and materials they made.

posted on Apr, 2 2019 @ 02:29 AM
Kind of like designing a square wheel that can change into a round one?

new topics

top topics

<<   2 >>

log in