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NASA Builds Ultra-light Wing that actively changes Shape to help Reduce Fuel Use

The wing also features actuators and computers that make it morph and twist to achieve the desired wing shape during flight

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NASA Aircraft. Flickr

Washington, November 4, 2016: A team of NASA researchers and students is using emerging composite material manufacturing methods to build an ultra-light wing that actively changes shape to help reduce fuel use and improve flight efficiency.

Increased efficiency means less fuel is needed, which means less weight on the aircraft, which also increases efficiency.

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This “holy grail” of more efficient flight is always in the minds of the Mission Adaptive Digital Composite Aerostructure Technologies, or MADCAT, team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

The ultra-light wing that actively changes shape could be an important part of the future of green aviation, said Kenneth Cheung, co-lead on the MADCAT project.

This type of wing could improve aerodynamic efficiency in future flight vehicles by reducing the amount of drag caused by rigid control surfaces like flaps, rudders and ailerons.

Earlier studies of aerodynamics showed that the shape of a wing has enormous effects on flight — but there is not just one “best” wing shape.

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The best shape in any moment depends on many factors: how much the aircraft weighs, the speed it is flying, and whether the pilot wants to climb higher or descend, for instance.

This means that a rigid wing with a limited number of moveable surfaces — also rigid — is only a compromise and cannot be the most efficient shape for the whole of any given flight.

The researchers explained that the shape-changing wing is constructed from building block units made of advanced carbon fibre composite materials.

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These building blocks are assembled into a lattice, or arrangement of repeating structures — the way that they are arranged determines how they flex.

The wing also features actuators and computers that make it morph and twist to achieve the desired wing shape during flight, the researchers said. (IANS)

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Scientists Create Map of Wind Circulation in the Upper Atmosphere of Mars

Scientists map winds in Mars' upper atmosphere for first time

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Mars
The new map of Mars winds helps scientists to better understand the workings of the Martian climate. (Representational image). Pixabay

Using data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, researchers have created the first-ever map of wind circulation in the upper atmosphere of Mars.

The new map of Mars winds helps scientists to better understand the workings of the Martian climate, giving them a more accurate picture of its ancient past and its ongoing evolution.

“The observed global circulation provides critical inputs needed to constrain global atmospheric models,” said Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“These are the same models that are used to extrapolate the state of the Martian climate into the distant past,” added Benna in the first paper published in the journal Science.

MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission) celebrated the five-year anniversary of its entrance into orbit around Mars on September 21.

Mission Mars
The winds observed in the Martian upper atmosphere are sometimes similar to what we see in global model simulations. (Representational image). Pixabay

The primary scientific goal of the mission is to study what is left of Mars’ atmosphere to determine how, in the distant past, an ocean-covered and potentially habitable Mars became the dry and desolate place it is today.

“The winds observed in the Martian upper atmosphere are sometimes similar to what we see in global model simulations, but other times can be quite different,” said Kali Roeten of University of Michigan.

“These winds can also be highly variable on the timescale of hours, yet in other cases, are consistent throughout the observation period, said Roeten in the second paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets.

Upper atmospheric winds on Earth have already been mapped in detail.

Winds drive a series of processes in the atmosphere that can affect the propagation of radio waves, which are crucial for communications purposes for those on the surface, and the prediction of paths satellites will take in their orbit around Earth.

Mapping Martian winds, therefore, is a crucial step towards understanding characteristics of extraterrestrial atmospheres beyond what we know about processes on Earth.

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The upper atmospheric winds on both Earth and Mars are in the planets’ respective thermospheres, which are areas where temperature increases with height.

This discovery was the first detection of topography-induced gravity wave ripples in the thermosphere of any planet, even Earth. (IANS)