Planes powered by body heat?

The aviation industry is only just getting its head around biofuel but there could be a truly mind-blowing power source around the corner: planes powered by body heat. That’s the […]

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By Vicky Ellis

The aviation industry is only just getting its head around biofuel but there could be a truly mind-blowing power source around the corner: planes powered by body heat.

That’s the incredible invention put forward by students in a competition run by Airbus, the French aircraft manufacturer, looking for revolutionary ideas to make the industry low carbon. The ‘Fly Your Ideas’ challenge is supported by UNESCO.

A team from Malaysia suggests human body heat could power cabins. Team Embarker’s theory is that heat energy from specially-embedded heat-sensitive material in cabin seats captures energy from passengers.

This energy could be used for on-board electronics, reducing the energy needs for the flight.

Their idea makes other suggestions– such as the Australian team’s cow pat powered planes which use methane gas or hybrid battery technology from the Italian Team FlyBrid – seem less extraordinary.

Each team will now travel to Airbus headquarters in Toulouse to compete for the EUR30,000 prize and present their futuristic ideas to a panel of judges.

Charles Champion, Executive Vice President Engineering at Airbus said: “For our industry to succeed in making aviation carbon neutral by 2020, we need a constant source of fresh and inventive ideas from the innovators of today and those of tomorrow. Our future solutions are here right now – and through projects like ‘Fly Your Ideas’, we are helping them to become a reality for the future.”