NASA builds N3-X electric plane capable of carrying more than 300 passengers

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 NASA builds N3-X electric plane capable of carrying more than 300 passengers

A NASA-sponsored research team has begun developing an all-electric version of the N3-X aircraft that can carry up to 330 passengers.

The N3-electric aircraft The X, set to debut in 2040, features an aerodynamic wing-body hybrid airframe and energy-efficient EPS. However, it will still rely on two turbo engines burning jet fuel to power the EPS.

The main problem with the N3-X being fully electrified and large aircraft in general – this is a huge energy requirement for thrust during takeoff, which requires about 25 megawatts of power.

“We need 25 to 30 times more power to turn a partially electric aircraft into a fully electric aircraft, and almost all of that power is for takeoff,” – says Mona Gassem, Associate Professor and Director of ZEROES.

To help meet these power needs, her team is proposing to replace the two N3-X turboelectric engines with four electrochemical power units including batteries, fuel cells and supercapacitors.

Several different EPS designs have been developed for takeoff, where all the electrical power is directed to thrust. Theoretically, with sufficiently powerful batteries, this charge should be enough to propel the N3-X into the air on electricity alone. It is noteworthy that modern battery technology is still far behind what is needed in these all-electric designs.

“With upcoming advances in lithium air and lithium sulfur batteries, the required specific energy for a wide-body electric aircraft can be achieved within the next 25 years, – Gassem notes. “However, another promising solution may be reached earlier– compact fusion reactors”.

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