Engineers in the U.K. unveil the world’s first graphene-skinned airplane

first graphene skinned plane img 3291

Graphene, the versatile miracle material that can be used for everything from creating better speakers for hearing aids to body armor that’s stronger than diamonds, has another application to add to its résumé. In the U.K., engineers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) recently unveiled the world’s first graphene-skinned plane at the “Futures Day” event at Farnborough Air Show 2018. Called Juno, the 11.5-feet wide unmanned airplane also boasts graphene batteries and 3D-printed parts. The combination adds up to a pretty darn impressive whole.

“This project is a genuine world’s first,” Billy Beggs, UCLan’s Engineering Innovation manager, told Digital Trends. “It represents the latest stage of an ongoing collaborative program between academia and industry to build on innovative research, and exploit graphene applications in aerospace. We are establishing a lead in the industrial application of graphene.”

While the 3D-printed elements and graphene batteries are certainly exciting, the graphene-skinned wings are the most promising part of the project. Specifically, it is hoped that the use of graphene can help reduce the overall weight of the aircraft to increase its range and potential payload. This is made possible because the graphene carbon used in Juno is around 17 percent lighter than standard carbon fiber. Other properties of the graphene can help it counter the effects of potentially dangerous lightning strikes, due to its extreme conductivity, and protect the aircraft against ice buildup during flight.

first graphene skinned plane juno  1

Working with UCLan on the project is the Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute, Haydale Graphene Industries, and assorted other businesses and research institutes.

“The U.K. Industrial Strategy highlights graphene as an example of a scientific discovery that needs to translate into industrial applications,” Peter Thomas, head of Innovation and Partnership at UCLan, told us. “Post-Brexit, the U.K. needs to continue to develop competitive advantage in aerospace through innovation.”

With Juno having made its stunning public demonstration, the next phase of the operation will include further tests to be carried out over the next two months. Should all go according to plan, airplanes such as this may well turn out to a particularly promising line of inquiry for graphene-related initiatives.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Genetically engineered bacteria paint microscopic masterpieces

By engineering E. coli bacteria to respond to light, scientists at the University of Rome have guided it like tiny drones toward patterns that depict Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa.
Cars

Apple Car may make its debut in the middle of the next decade

Apple likely won't become a full-fledged manufacturer like General Motors or Ford, but the tech giant is diving into the auto industry pool. Here's everything we know about the company's automotive efforts.
Emerging Tech

Be a master of your own ever-changing ‘galaxy’ with this kinetic wall art

Art Machine is a stunning work of kinetic art that looks like a continuously swirling galaxy or turbulent weather formation viewed through a ship's porthole. Check it out in all its glory.
Emerging Tech

Los Angeles subway to become first in the U.S. to use body scanners

Los Angeles is set to become the first city in the U.S. to use body scanners on its subway. The machines are portable and quick to set up, and can check around 2,000 people an hour without causing lines or delays for passengers.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Regular Wi-Fi can accurately detect bombs, chemicals, and weapons in bags

Surveillance cameras and bag searches have become commonplace when it comes to security in public venues. But researchers may have found a different way to detect suspicious items: regular Wi-Fi.
Gaming

How to connect a Nintendo Switch controller to your PC

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here’s all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Emerging Tech

Science says waste beer could help us live on Mars

Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a new super-insulating gel, created from beer waste, which could one day be used for building greenhouse-like habitats on Mars.
Emerging Tech

Engineers have made a new type of lithium battery that won’t explode

While statistically rare, the lithium-ion batteries used in mobile devices have been known to burst into flames. Researchers from University of Michigan have been working to change that.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Boring Company wants to dig a tunnel to Dodger Stadium

Elon Musk's Boring Company wants to build a high-speed transportation tunnel connecting Dodger Stadium to a nearby Metro station. The system would run 150-mph passenger pods between the stadium and a terminus to the west.
Emerging Tech

Watch as a ‘lifeguard drone’ rescues a swimmer struggling at sea

These days, drones are finding a range of roles in a myriad of fields. Lifeguards, for example, are making use of the drone's ability to quickly deploy flotation devices while also offering an eye in the sky to survey the scene.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? Here are the best drones on the market right now

To help you navigate the increasingly large and ever-changing landscape of consumer UAVs, here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now