The idea of an aircraft was initially borrowed from the way birds fly in the air. However, engineers were not able to replicate the way features of birds change as they change their speed, direction, and height while flying.
Currently, aircraft use rigid wings that change their direction based on the changing aerodynamic parameters but thanks to engineers from NASA and MIT this is about to change.
Recently, in a peer-reviewed scientific journal for advanced materials, “Smart material and structures” the engineers and researcher from NASA and MIT explained how they were successful in producing a lightweight and flexible structure for aircraft wings.
Scientifically speaking, having something lightweight yet durable instead of the old school rigid wings on the aircraft will be a huge breakthrough not only in terms of saving fuel and increased efficiency but also for increasing the traveling speed.
The material used is a ‘metamaterial’ which is made of a combination of polymer and thin metal fibers. The structure comprises of triangle struts with empty space inside. This is why the whole structure is extremely lightweight.
When compared to rubber it has a 1000 times lower density. These lightweight and flexible struts change the position based on the aerodynamic factors which include height, speed, and directions.
This innovation may result in more efficient aircraft, and even though the design is not exactly new, it was only recently implemented. The first prototype is hand-built but engineers are looking to automate the process using robots.
Like any other technology, it will be expensive and rarely available initially but with time, we can envision a future with flexible aircraft wings.