No Boom: Supersonic Biplane

Thursday, 22 March 2012 3 comments
Even though the sound barrier has been overcome more than half a century ago, the technology could never really make it into mass aviation (with the exception of the Concorde and other airlines that fly solely over oceans and do not need to fly over populated areas) since the sonic boom created by planes exceeding Mach 5 speeds is a cause of great discomfort among the general population. However, a team of researchers from Stanford University and MIT have come up with a new two-wing design plane that could break the sound barrier silently and can potentially be used in civilian aircrafts permitted to fly over cities.

German engineer Adolf Busemann devised a bi-plane in the 1950’s that formed the basis of the new design by the researchers. The design is created to effectively cancel out the boom and the team tweaked Busemann’s original design to encourage sufficient air flow through the inner channel.
A plane creates a vacuum in its wake when air pressure stacks up in front of it as it moves through the air. When the plane travels faster than the sound wave it creates, it hits supersonic speeds. The leading and trailing pressure waves are then dragged and compressed together into a single big shockwave that travels at the speed of sound. The sonic boom is created when this wave hits the ground over which the plane is flying.
supersonic biplane 
The new plane looks to overcome this precise problem. The plane uses triangular wings attached at the tip with a smoother finished inner edge. The triangular wings also feature an outer surface with small bumps that allow the plane to exceed speeds of Mach 5 and reducing the fuel consumption of the plane by over 50 percent as well.
By having a design that requires less fuel to travel, the plane effectively also reduces its flight weight since more fuel efficiency translates into the plane carrying less weight in terms of fuel. This also reduces the size of the structure that is required to carry all the excess fuel and this interdependence results in amazing overall weight savings for the design.
This tweak would allow the planes to be successfully utilized in civilian aviation if the design makes it out in the market and are cleared by authorities. These silent supersonic jets of the future would then make flights over the continent less time consuming. The Busemann biplane was earlier used by a group of Japanese researchers in a design that could transform its wings during a flight in an attempt to resolve the aerodynamic problems surrounding the supersonic biplane though the design never really made it successfully into the prototype stage. 


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