Engineers at MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have designed a flexible, lightweight solar-driven electric boat that can be launched from an aircraft wing.
The MIT team created a prototype that uses the same type of electric motors as the Boeing 737, and can propel a sail that can reach distances of up to 6,500 meters.
The electric motor is used to power the boat’s propulsion system, and the sail is made of titanium and titanium-alloys.
The solar-electric boat has the potential to be used in applications including disaster response, medical applications, or as a sustainable fuel source, the MIT researchers wrote in a paper published online by the journal Science Advances.
“This is an exciting area of research that is important to the future of transportation,” said lead author Michael Cornell, a postdoc in MIT’s Electrical Engineering Department.
“The team’s design of a sailboat that can operate at altitudes over 10,000 meters has the advantage of being lightweight and flexible.
In addition, it’s an ideal candidate for applications that would need to be flown at high altitudes and for which there are not yet any suitable sailboats.”
The researchers were able to demonstrate that the sailboat’s design can be made to operate at different altitudes, and even operate under water without any propulsion.
The researchers also tested the sail in water at sea and with no wind and water.
The sailboat is able to operate in water without a propeller and, if powered by solar power, can be used as a lightweight, self-propelled, and self-contained electric boat.
The team said the sail was built to be lightweight and to be portable.
Cornell said the design could be used for applications in a variety of areas.
“It’s a very robust design, and it has a very low mass, which means it can be powered by a range of batteries, but also by solar and wind energy,” he said.
“These are all very promising technologies, and we’re working on them right now.”
The sail boat’s designers also used titanium and aluminium alloy to make the sail, which could be combined with other materials for improved performance.
“We wanted to make something that could be made from titanium and aluminum, and that has a low weight and is also lightweight,” Cornell told MIT Technology Review.
“To achieve that, we made sure that the titanium and the aluminum alloy were completely separate and were free from other environmental influences that could cause the titanium alloy to degrade.”
The boat’s design also uses a very different structure than the conventional, standard solar-based sailboat, which consists of a rigid structure with fins and an upright sail, and which has a maximum weight of more than 100 kilograms.
We wanted to create a sail with a more flexible structure that could take off and land, but still have the flexibility to sail in any direction,” Corbell added.
The sails of the MIT team were designed with the help of MIT students.
What we found was that the sails of this prototype can be easily designed to take off at high speeds and stay aloft, even in water,” Corbett said.