Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers recently released a concept aircraft design that could use 70 percent less fuel than current commercial airliners. The simple secret, they say: Optimize the aircraft for modern, efficient jet engines.
Jet engine these days burn much less fuel at slightly slower speeds than the original designs that influenced the swept wing designs of the 1950s and 60s. One of the main problems is that most airliners still use leftovers from those designs even though the older jet engines they were designed around haven’t been used by most airlines for many years.
Today’s modern jet engines are much bigger in size, and much more efficient and quieter says professor Mark Drela, the lead designer on the MIT team.
“From a purely design viewpoint, they’re really mismatched, the big engines want to go slower which means the airplanes really want to have less wing sweep” Drela says. “That’s one of the things we took advantage of.”