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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Thermal Management System for Superconducting Aircraft, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

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Thermal Management System for Superconducting Aircraft, Phase I
Aircraft powered by hydrogen power plants or gas turbines driving electric generators connected to distributed electric motors for propulsion have the potential to transform the aircraft design space by decoupling power generation from propulsion. Resulting aircraft designs such as blended wing bodies with distributed propulsion can provide the large reductions in emissions, fuel burn and noise required to make air transportation growth projections sustainable. The power density requirements for these electric machines can only be achieved with superconducting materials. However, their feasibility is dependent on improving the power density of the cryocoolers needed to cool the superconductors to their operating temperatures. We propose a Cryoflight turbo-Brayton cryocooler, optimized for low weight and high efficiency. Our initial design studies indicate that this design will exceed the mass and performance targets identified by NASA for superconducting aircraft. In Phase I of this project we will extend our initial design study to include a system trade study and individual component designs (TRL 3). In Phase II we will demonstrate the turbomachine, the most critical component in the system (TRL 4). In Phase III we will demonstrate a complete cryocooler (TRL 4 and TRL 5). Our proposed Cryoflight cryocooler development effort will provide an enabling technology for superconducting aircraft, which have the potential to revolutionalize future air transportation. More »

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This is a historic project that was completed before the creation of TechPort on October 1, 2012. Available data has been included. This record may contain less data than currently active projects.