In a paper published in the journal Smart Materials and Structures on Monday, the researchers from NASA and MIT has created a new type of airplane wing.
On a traditional airplane wing, only parts of the wing, like flaps and ailerons, can move to change the plane’s direction. The wing designed by the MIT and NASA researchers would be able to move in its entirety.
During flight, the wing can alter its form to better control a plane’s momentum and direction. Instead of relying on “separate movable surfaces” (like wing flaps) to yaw right or left, this new wing can deform its entire body thanks to its unique construction: it’s made up of “thousands” of small triangular struts.
Not only does this new wing show that the concept scales up to a size that could carry a person, but it also demonstrates a new manufacturing process that cuts the time needed to produce each individual structure down from several minutes to just 17 seconds.