Machine Could Power the Future of Aviation Propulsion

The megawatt machine (right) was connected to a dynamometer (left) to test its effectiveness as an electric generator. Rotating parts are on the outside, so both the cylinder on the right and the cylinder with arrows spin during operation. (Credit: Collins Aerospace)

A one-megawatt electric motor that could help propel future, more environmentally friendly  and economically sustainable aircraft was tested by NASA and its industry and academic partners.

Studies by NASA and The Boeing Co. have shown that machines that functioned as both motors and generators could reduce fuel burn for a wide range of aircraft sizes. To do so they must be lightweight, highly efficient, and able to produce one to two megawatts of power.

This type of machine would need to be at least 96% energy efficient and produce at least 12 kilowatts (enough for about nine houses) for every kilogram it weighed. The new motor exceeded both the efficiency and power density goals, producing 15 kilowatts per kilogram at over 96% efficiency.