NASA's New Wing Design Could Cut Fuel and Emissions In Half


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockApr 11 2016, 17:17 UTC
904 NASA's New Wing Design Could Cut Fuel and Emissions In Half
Greg Gatlin, NASA aerospace research engineer, inspects the truss-braced wing during testing in the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel complex at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. NASA

NASA is often synonymous with space missions but the agency works just as hard at improving aeronautics, making planes faster, cleaner and more secure.

NASA and Boeing have been working on a new wing design that is longer, thinner, and lighter. It requires a brace for extra support and it reduces fuel burn and carbon emission by at least 50 percent compared to current technology. Even compared with other future models, this configuration is between 4 to 8 percent more efficient.


The wind tunnel test of this design showed that the new design has 50 percent more wingspan than commercially available planes. Computer simulations are even more promising: The engineers are tweaking the braced wing by modelling how air would flow around the wings. They are trying to understand all the potential sources of drag, and to minimize them.

These improvements are being tested in wind tunnels to validate the computations and predictions for the aircraft model performances. The NASA and Boeing engineers are currently analyzing these results hoping to discover features that can be improved.

This project is part of NASA’s effort to improve on Air Transport Technology. Initiatives like this, or New Aviation Horizons, aim to reduce the impact air travel has on the planet and its inhabitants without compromising on the safety of the passengers. Every U.S. aircraft uses NASA-developed technology. 

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