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MIT invented a new MegaWatt motor that could revolutionize air travel

Published Jul 4th, 2023 5:23PM EDT
Commercial airplane flying above clouds in sunset light.
Image: Jag_cz/Adobe

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A new invention from researchers at MIT could help the aviation industry shrink its carbon footprint immensely. The invention would finally allow larger aircraft to take full advantage of electronic motors, which has only been possible with small all-electric plans previously. That’s because the megawatt motors needed to lift a larger aircraft off the ground are difficult to create without overloading the plane.

Now, though, MIT researchers may have finally found a way to, at the least, make a hybrid system that utilizes both an electrical component with a gas turbine aero-engine. The 1-megawatt motor that these MIT researchers are working on could be a very important stepping stone to creating an all-electric aircraft somewhere down the line.

Front of airplane
Electrical motors could change how we travel through the air. Image source: Carlos Santa Maria/Adobe

Thus far, the team has both designed and tested the major components of the motor, showing through detailed computations that the components can work as a whole to generate one megawatt of power while still remaining at a weight and size that is competitive with current smaller aero-engines.

The team does believe that the megawatt motor would need to be paired with a source of electricity, such as a battery or fuel cell, allowing it to turn the electrical energy into mechanical work to power the propellers on the aircraft. Additionally, it would also be able to be paired with a traditional turbofan jet engine to create a hybrid system that uses electric propulsion during certain parts of the flight.

The team is composed of faculty, students, and researchers from GTL and the MIT Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems. The attempts to create a more environmentally friendly motor have become important, especially as we careen towards what could be the start of devastating climate “doom loops.” Being able to harness electrical power for flight would easily help revolutionize the aviation industry.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.