Research: Electric Jet Engines

This post is something of a tangent, but nevertheless a fascinating topic with lots of future potential.

An article from the New York Times examines how detrimental airline emissions have been to the atmosphere, and how they vastly outpace our predictions:

  • airplane emissions of CO2 would have reached over 900 million metric tons in 2018, and triple by 2050
  • “the climate challenge for aviation is worse than anyone predicted”

Air Plasma Jets

A research team at Wuhan University has developed a prototype for a jet engine that would utilize nothing more than air and electricity for its jet propulsion:

  • plasma is an aggregate of charged ions
  • air is compressed with high pressures into an ionizing microwave

“The researchers created a plasma jet by compressing air into high pressures and using a microwave to ionize the pressurized air stream.”

Most other models for potential electric jets involve multiple engines on each wing on the jet, and elsewhere on its body. The present challenge is that it would require a lot of power to keep an electric turbine running for a trip that lasts several hours.