Could shape-shifting metal make efficiency plane sailing?

Shape-shifting metals could make planes lighter and more fuel-efficient. That’s according to researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Centre, who say ‘shape memory alloys’ could let parts of the plane assume […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

Shape-shifting metals could make planes lighter and more fuel-efficient.

That’s according to researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Centre, who say ‘shape memory alloys’ could let parts of the plane assume slightly different shapes and positions depending on their temperature.

The scientists say this could dispense with much of the motors, cables and equipment needed to move flaps, rudders and landing gear.

These temperatures would be controlled by a small computer – researchers say it would have easy access to a lot of heat from the engine, as well as access to very cold air from the high altitude, meaning it could quickly make adjustments.

Objects made with these alloys could be up to a fifth smaller than a traditionally designed part, saving a great deal of weight and improving fuel efficiency.

An electric plane recently towed a glider into the sky for the first time.