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Victoria researchers help with hybrid jet

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/06/2017

A team of Victoria University of Wellington researchers is hoping to use their expertise to help build the world's first hybrid-electric jet plane.

Three researchers from the university's Robinson Research Institute have been invited to a Nasa session in Wisconsin next month, with the topic of electric aircraft on the table, while another two members have been part of the team working on Nasa's Electric Aircraft Technology Roadmap.

The institute's principal engineer and deputy director Rod Badcock says emissions from planes has grown 75 per cent since 1990 so it is important a cleaner alternative is found quickly.

Electric vehicles have been around for a long time," he said.

"However, electric planes pose a bigger challenge as they will require very high-power propulsion systems which are subject to stringent weight constraints.

"Existing electrical machines are simply too heavy.

"The only feasible approach is high-torque, high-speed machines that employ high temperature superconductors."

Helping to build the world's first hybrid-electric jet plane would have a considerable impact on the New Zealand economy and help us meet our Paris Agreement obligations, Dr Badcock said.

"New Zealand depends on aviation,'' he said.

"Whether we're exporting high-value products to the world, or welcoming tourists to our shores, we rely on airlines to serve us."

A hybrid-electric aircraft would increase aircraft fuel efficiency by more than 33 per cent over today's jet engines, Dr Badcock said, by using high-speed electric motors to drive turbo-fans.

He said a motor for a Boeing 737 could be developed by a team that included Robinson Research Institute members.

"We have collaborations with experts in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan.

"We're all using our knowledge and technology to make it a reality," he said.

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