Researchers to Partner on All-Electric Aircraft Project

Two electrical engineering professors have joined a multi-institutional team of researchers on a NASA-funded project to develop an all-electric aircraft.

Alan Mantooth, distinguished professor and Twenty-First Century Research Leadership Chair in Engineering, and assistant professor Fang Luo will work with the Center for Cryogenic High-Efficiency Electrical Technology for Aircraft (CHEETA). CHEETA will focus on electrically driven propulsion systems for commercial aircraft.

The goal of the research is to increase efficiency, reduce emissions and decrease dependency on carbon-based fuels in the aeronautics industry.

In 2015, the global aviation industry produced 781 million tons of carbon dioxide. That number is expected to increase substantially because air travel is forecast to grow 90 percent in the United States over the next 20 years.

The CHEETA vehicle concept will leverage the high-specific-energy content of liquid hydrogen with fuel cell energy conversion and an electrically driven distributed-propulsion system to provide an ultra-efficient propulsion drivetrain. Mantooth and Luo will work specifically on the characterization, modeling and design of electronics that perform at very low temperatures and will support the overall mission objectives.

NASA is providing $6 million over the course of three years. The University of Arkansas will receive $600,000. The end result of the project will be an integrated vehicle system with a quiet, efficient propulsion system that produces zero carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions at the vehicle level.

The University of Illinois is the leading the project. Other institutions involved are the Air Force Research Lab, Boeing Research and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Ohio State University, General Electric Global Research, University of Dayton Research Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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