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Five wild visions for the future of flight

Posting in Design

With the “Fly Your Ideas” campaign, jet-maker Airbus is challenging college kids to generate radical ideas to improve aviation -- and maybe even help airlines become carbon-neutral by 2020. Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

The company has selected five finalists from 618 entries and will name the winning design on Friday. First prize is €30,000 ($39,643) and an invitation to Airbus headquarters in France. The second-place entry receives €15,000 ($19,822). The groups retain ownership of their ideas while Airbus holds an exclusive license on them.

Here they are:

1. Cow-power. Team CLiMA, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia.

A sustainable fuel system that blends liquefied biomethane from cows and liquefied natural gas (which is already used in commercial trucking). Supercooled tanks containing this fuel would sit beside the plane’s engines, reducing carbon emissions by 97 percent.

2. Floating luggage. Team Levar, University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Cargo holds retro-fitted with super-light sliding sections so baggage handlers can easily load and unload -- using a cushion of air, inspired by air hockey tables. This would eliminate luggage containers and move bags 30 percent faster.

3. Shape-shifting engines. Team AVAS, SRM University, India.

A way to modify an aircraft engine using alloys that change shape in-flight to alter airflow and thereby reduce the amount of propulsion noise created.

4. Rechargeable plane. Team Flybrid, Technical University of Milan, Italy.

An array of rechargeable batteries dropped into the cargo hold of a turbo-prop engine aircraft, pre-charged before flight based on the trip’s distance to optimize the plane’s weight. For short trips, these batteries could cut fuel use by 60 percent and carbon emissions by 40 percent.

5. Body heat collector. Team Embarker, Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Collect passengers’ body heat to power personal electronics during flight. Heat-sensitive materials embedded in cabin seats will transfer excess body heat to the aircraft as an alternative power source for our gadgets.

[Airbus via Businessweek]

Image: Airbus

— By on June 12, 2013, 2:38 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure