Special to UM News
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 13, 2016)—Funded in part with a grant from the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust, the College of Engineering has established a Center for Green Aviation to further develop green, zero-direct-emission electric aircraft, with a particular focus on increasing their range and payload capacity. The first such research facility in the United States, the facility will provide the next generation of electric aircraft engineers hands-on experience in cutting-edge technologies.
The center will capitalize on the expertise and unique technology of the college’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, (DARPA) and Boeing have recognized with grants and contracts.
“The Center for Green Aviation will develop technologies that make this green transportation option practical for future aviation,” says Ge-Cheng Zha, co-director of the center and a professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. “We will begin with small General Aviation aircraft and thin-haul aircraft. Today’s electric aircraft can only go short distances of 100 miles or so. Our research will change the face of consumer aircraft, as well as unmanned aerial drone systems.”
Researchers at the college have already demonstrated a novel design, which was able to fly more than twice the distance of a similarly sized electric aircraft that used conventional design. Their new design allowed for a 510-mile range with four passengers. This design is based on a flow control technology, called Co-Flow jet airfoil, which was developed at the University of Miami. The technology offers radically increased aerodynamic efficiency and lift coefficient.
Integrating that design with the college’s discoveries and expertise in aerodynamics science, electric power sources using structure batteries, and multi-functional composite materials, the Center for Green Aviation will develop technologies including the ultra-high-lift, high-efficiency co-flow jet (CFJ) wing; ultra-high-capacity electric energy storage devices (UHEES); integrated multifunctional structural batteries; and high-efficiency, low-noise swept propellers. The center will be integrated with the college’s educational programs for graduate and undergraduate students.
“A few years ago, everyone thought electric cars were just a dream. Now, you see Tesla and many other manufacturers that have turned that dream into a reality. The same is going to happen with green aviation,” says Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the College of Engineering and director of the center. “Now, we need partnerships between academic researchers and industry in order to update and fine-tune the technology and bring electric aircraft to market. By bringing together science, technology, engineering, and practice, we will be able to develop products with tangible benefits for society. Having the University of Miami at the forefront of such a development is important, not only for the University, but for the world of aviation.”