Scientists invent laser aircraft refueling

December 9th, 2008 - 3:56 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Dec 9 (ANI): A team of scientists has devised a unique way of refueling aircraft, using a high-powered laser to recharge on-board batteries.

A fundamental problem with aircraft is the amount of fuel they have to carry. Designers are forced to make compromises to reduce fuel consumption and to squeeze the necessarily large fuel tanks into the craft.

All this drives up cost and reduces manoeuvrability.

One alternative is in-flight refuelling, but that can be logistically difficult as well as dangerous, requiring to aircraft to meet in mid-air and transfer liquid fuel via a flexible hose.

But now, according to a report in New Scientist, Taysir Nayfeh and colleagues at Cleveland State University have devised a way of refuelling aircraft using a high-powered laser to recharge on-board batteries.

The team said that the aircraft would be fitted with panels capable of converting up to 60 percent of the laser light that hits them into electricity.

A single ground-based laser could then keep numerous aircraft airborne indefinitely.

The most obvious use would be for light, uncrewed surveillance aircraft, but, with improved laser and battery technology, larger craft could be kept aloft.

According to the team, a similar idea could be used to refuel spacecraft, but only if a way could be found to dissipate the excess heat that the light-converting panels would generate. (ANI)

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