October 02, 2011

'Flying carpet' of conductive plastic

A miniature magic carpet made of plastic has taken flight in a laboratory at Princeton University. The 10cm (4in) sheet of smart transparency is driven by "ripple power"; waves of electrical current driving thin pockets of air from front to rear underneath. The prototype moves at speeds of about a centimeter per second, but improvements to the design could raise that to as much as a meter per second.

Mr Jafferis and his co-authors are careful to keep the word "flying" in inverted commas, because the resulting machine has more in common with a hovercraft than an aeroplane. It has to keep close to the ground because the air is then trapped between the sheet and the ground. As the waves move along the sheet it basically pumps the air out the back. That is the source of the thrust.

Applied Physics Letters - Traveling wave-induced aerodynamic propulsive forces using piezoelectrically deformed substrates

We use integrated piezoelectric actuators and sensors to demonstrate the propulsive force produced by controllable transverse traveling waves in a thin plastic sheet suspended in air above a flat surface, thus confirming the physical basis for a “flying” carpet near a horizontal surface. Experiments are conducted to determine the dependence of the force on the height above the ground and the amplitude of the traveling wave, which qualitatively confirm previous theoretical predictions

They are already working on a solar-powered upgrade that could freely fly over large distances. The advantage of this kind of propulsion, he argues, is that unlike jets, propellers and hovercraft, there are no moving components like cogs and gears that rub against each other.

Calcuations show the system could work on Mars, mars.

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