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Referenced article published on on June 9, 2023 written by Micah Hanks. Link to original article:

Electric Propulsion Breakthrough Produces Motor that Could Help to Revolutionize Green Aviation

MIT engineers are pushing the boundaries of green aviation with their revolutionary 1-megawatt electric motor. This promising breakthrough could be instrumental in electrifying large aircraft, drastically cutting their carbon emissions. The aviation industry currently contributes over 850 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution annually, a figure expected to triple by mid-century if not curtailed. This urgency has led to caps on international flight emissions and a push towards electrification as a solution.

Historically, the power produced by electric machines was determined by the size of their copper coils and magnetic rotor. These machines generated heat proportional to their power output, necessitating cooling mechanisms that increased operational space. This rendered complete electrification impractical for larger aircraft which require megawatt-scale power.

This new MIT motor, however, combines electric and gas turbine propulsion components into a hybrid turbo-electric system capable of high-scale power generation. Such a system, according to project leader Zoltan Spakovszky, is a “key enabler for greening aviation”. It could work with various power sources, including batteries, hydrogen, ammonia, and eco-friendly aviation fuel.

The ground-breaking motor uses electromagnetic force, generating magnetic fields with copper coils to power spinning instruments such as a propeller. This design could work in conjunction with battery or fuel cell power sources or a conventional turbofan jet engine.

However, achieving the necessary level of “green” in aviation, according to the MIT team, will require more than electrification. It will need unique aircraft designs that incorporate hybrid electric propulsion with “smart” fuel systems, as well as advanced material construction. The team’s high-speed motor, equipped with an innovative heat exchanger and a distributed power electronics system, already demonstrates this vision.

The researchers are optimistic about their pioneering co-optimized design’s potential to make larger-scale electric aircraft a reality, marking a significant stride towards greener aviation. They plan to present their findings at the upcoming Electric Aircraft Technologies Symposium.