Box Wings And Backward Fans For Cleaner Skies

While some of us try to wean ourselves from our jet addiction and the engineers at Reaction Engines work out the kinks of a hydrogen-fueled hypersonic jet designed to get passengers from Brussels to Sidney between breakfast and lunch, a German non-profit called Bauhaus Luftfahrt is working on the wacky-looking "box wing" aircraft above and other goodies to help cut air travel's carbon dioxide emissions 35 percent by 2035.

Bauhaus, which includes Germany's MTU Aero Engines, is proposing to get to that goal in three steps: employing geared turbofan technology in conventional jet engines for a 15 percent CO2 reduction; adding counter-rotating fans into these same engines (5 percent); and lastly, equipping the system with a waste-heat recuperating technology for another 15 percent. An added benefit MTU said, would be quieter planes. MTU is studying incorporating the new engine systems into new aircraft designs like the so-called box wing. Not to be outdone,the European Research Commission has launched another initiative, called Clean Sky, that aims for even bigger goals - cutting noise of jets by half and CO2 and NOx emissions by 50 and 80 percent respectively by 2020. Clean Sky has 1.6 billion Euros in hand over the next six years to evaluate technologies, such as active wings that sense air flow and adapt to it, and have them out in the market by 2015.

One huge downside: developing and using more efficient, greener planes won't be of that much help overall if the world's fleet nearly doubles by 2020 and air travel's contribution to global CO2 levels goes from 3 to 5 percent by 2050. Via ::NyTeknik (Swedish and some English)

Tags: Air Travel