In a paper in the magazine Smart Materials and Structures, the research team explains how it has significantly redesigned the aircraft wing. Their new structure is a light lattice framework, made from thousands of small triangles, replicated, from matches like matches, covered with a thin polymer layer. Because this "metamaterial" contains mostly empty space, it is very light – less than a thousandth of rubber density. And, the settings that have been carefully installed allow the wing to change shape automatically in response to changes in aerodynamic loading conditions. The two factors could make aircraft more energy efficient.
This is not a completely new concept. It was introduced a few years ago, but now the researchers have developed a way of producing the individual parts for the wing using injection molding. They have brought the time needed to produce each part – an empty cube with small holes along each edge – down from several minutes to just 17 seconds. Although the long-measured model they created by hand, the process was designed to be repetitive, so that small, independent robots in the future will be able to assemble the wings.
The potential for a light wing moving shape raises questions about the ideal shape of the plane. With this technology, we may be able to cut off the design "tube with wings" and use a more efficient configuration – possibly integrated body structure and wings. If the idea of watching an aircraft wing shape changes as you cruise on 30,000 feet of alarms, don't worry again. This is far from being prepared for commercial airlines. Meanwhile, it has the potential to redesign other structures, such as wing-like wind turbine blades.