Composite Materials Allow More Fuel-Efficient Shape
Honda is a company best known for... well, not jet planes! But that could be about to change; the company has unveiled a new light jet prototype that, thanks to advanced composite materials and other design tricks, uses 20% less fuel than the competition (which is great in an industry where single digit improvements are more than welcome). It's also quieter and can fly faster than its rivals. Read on for more details and photos.
There are 4 main innovations that make the HondaJet more efficient, and thus greener, than the competition:
1) Over-the-wing engine mount. If you are an aeronautical engineer, you can check out Honda's technical paper about this, but the short & simple version is that they've figured out how to mount the engines in such a way that it reduces aerodynamic interference, and thus lower overall drag. Putting the engines on top of the wings also makes the HondaJet about 20db quieter than similar planes, reducing noise pollution.
2) Improved natural-laminar flow. Because they used carbon composites and resins, the design team were able to shape the fuselage in such a way that drag is further reduced. That's why you see bulges and shapes that are different from other planes; they redirect the air-flow in a more optimal way compared to the typical "straight" fuselages. There's a technical paper about this too, if you're interested.
3) All-composite fuselage. On top of allowing more design flexibility, the all-composite fuselage also makes the plane lighter, and thus more fuel-efficient.
4) New engine designed for fuel-efficiency. Honda partnered with GE to design the HondaJet's engines. The air compression ratio is unusually high, and high-tech fluid dynamics software was used to optimize airflow within the compact engine, maximizing performance.
Put all this together, and you have a pretty good improvement over the average small jet. It's still better not to fly in the first place, but as long as there are jets in the skies, they might as well be as efficient as possible. Technologies developed in smaller planes can eventually find their way into bigger ones, and once advanced aviation biofuels are available, it will be possible to fly in a truly carbon-neutral way. This doesn't eliminate all problems with flying, but we have to be pragmatic since it'll probably be around for a long time, and there are lots of benefits to the democratization of travel.
Via Honda, Technology Review
More on Green(er) Planes
Zephyr Solar Plane's 3 World Records Confirmed!
The 'Eternal Aircraft' Zephyr Solar Plane Aims for 14 Days in the Air
Zephyr Solar Plane Lands After Over 2 Weeks (!!!) in the Air, Setting New World Record
SolarEagle Unmanned Plane to Fly for 5 Years Without Landing