Tech & Science NASA and MIT scientists have developed a radical new type of airplane wing, which is made up of thousands of tiny identical subunits. After successfully testing it in a NASA wind tunnel, the researchers say the wing—which is described in a paper published in the journal Smart Materials and Structures—has the potential to significantly improve the production of aircraft in the future by adding greater flexibility to the manufacturing process. Normally, wings use movable parts such as ailerons to control the roll and pitch of the plane. The new design, however, can actually change shape by deforming itself—the result of being built with a mix of stiff and flexible components—so that the whole wing, or sections of it, can bend in specific ways. The small identical components or subunits form a lattice structure that is then covered in a thin polymer material. The resulting wing is thus mostly composed of empty space, while still being stiff and low density. The lattice, for example, has the same stiffness as rubber but only around one-thousandth of the density. The fact the wing is deformable means it can adapt to different situations—whether it’s landing, takeoff or cruising. According to the researchers, this leads to a… Read full this story
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