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Optimized biplane concept could make supersonic travel quieter and more fuel-efficient

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A research team has developed a new biplane concept that could cut down sonic booms by half, and potentially reduce fuel consumption as well.

Biplane equations
Biplane equations

Researchers at MIT and Stanford have developed a new twist on a 60-year old biplane design that can travel at supersonic speeds without producing much of a sonic boom. The design is based on Busemann's Biplane, a concept created by German engineer Adolf Busemann. He determined that using two wings on either side of a plane, each shaped like a flattened triangle, could reduce the noisy sonic boom that makes supersonic aircrafts such a nuisance. Problem was, while the design would work just fine at supersonic speeds, it produced so much drag that it couldn't actually reach those speeds.

But Qiqi Wang and his research team think they have a solution. Using computer models, the team went through around 700 different possible wing configurations before landing on the optimal wing shape for the bi-plane design — and it cuts drag by 50 percent compared to a standard supersonic jet. Not only would this make the plane quieter — and thus more likely to be used for commercial aircrafts — it could also improve fuel efficiency by reducing the amount of fuel needed. Unfortunately, just like Busemann's Biplane, this design is still just a concept. Now that the team has a potential wing shape, it will build a 3D model to see how it will fair against the kind of conditions planes face in the air.