NASA engineers have completed tests on a device that opens the path for development of "all-electric" aircraft. Called the Electro-Hydrostatic Actuator, the device eliminates or minimizes airborne dependence on hydraulic, pneumatic, and mechanical systems. NASA tested the device on the left aileron of its F/A-18 Systems Research Aircraft without using the plane's central hydraulics. Taking its signals from the aircraft's flight-control computers, the device uses its electronics to trick aircraft computers into thinking a standard actuator is on board. Although the device contains a small amount of hydraulic fluid, it uses an electric motor to drive its pump. The force created moves the aileron. For many years, NASA, the Air Force, and the Navy have sought to eliminate heavy hydraulic systems in aircraft in favor of electrical "power-by-wire" systems for operating flight controls. The new device results from the Electrically Powered Actuation Design program of the Air Force.
Researchers have been working on a number of alternative chemistries to lithium-ion for next-gen batteries, silicon-air among them. However, while the technology has been viewed as promising and cost-effective, to date researchers haven’t managed to develop a battery of this chemistry with a viable running time -- until now.
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