The aircraft of the future: secrets to green travel
Going green has become synonymous with our modern society and when it comes to travel, there's much to be done. Air travel is currently one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases. It's imperative that technology keeps pace with the increased flight demand of tomorrow.
Battery planes and biofuels are some of the solutions that aircraft manufacturers are exploring to reduce the carbon footprint and promote sustainable travelling. We are still far from meeting the International Air Transport Agency target of reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050.
Airbus, a leading aircraft manufacturer, is committed to meeting this target, and currently looking for new ways to optimise aircraft design. The bionic partition is the company’s latest effort to design sustainable travelling that is as good for the passengers as it is for the environment.
The bionic partition is the world’s largest 3D printed aircraft cabin component and it is 45% lighter than current designs. As it is lighter, it reduces the amount of fuel needed to keep the plane flying, significantly reducing its impact to the environment.
As Airbus estimated, the installation of this lighter component will mean cutting 166 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions per plane annually. When this design is implemented across the entire fleet, the reduced emissions would be equivalent to taking 96,000 cars off the road.
The design of this partition has been made possible through a combination of generative design and 3D printing. This approach, powered by Autodesk software, uses cloud computing, and its huge processing ability, to run tens of thousands of virtual designs through various material tests and constraints.
The task was to make a partition which could support extreme loads at certain stress points, while decreasing the overall weight. The design of the structural skeleton was based on bionic design and biomimicry, two design approaches that imitate nature to seek innovative solutions to technological problems.
Biological algorithms like those that shape the growth patterns of slime mold and mammal bone were implemented, creating an organic latticed grid structure that resulted stronger, lighter and more durable designs than present models.
Airbus is currently exploring different possibilities in order to adapt bionic design to other parts of the plane. Implementing generative and bionic design while using innovative materials is a key step for the future of aircraft technology, setting a precedent for more efficient planes and sustainable travelling.
The Living, the design team behind the Airbus bionic partition, are dedicated to designing new materials at the intersection of synthetic biology, architecture and computation. The design of this partition, a fully functional component expected to be seen in commercial aircrafts by the end of 2018, has enabled the development of a new concept of planes.
In 50 years, whole aircrafts could be built using a bionic structure similar to that of this partition which will reduce the aircraft’s weight and fuel use while enabling stunning panoramic views.