Retrotechtacular: Supersonic Transport Initiatives

In the early days of PBS member station WGBH-Boston, they in conjunction with MIT produced a program called Science Reporter. The program’s aim was explaining modern technological advances to a wide audience through the use of interviews and demonstrations. This week, we have a 1966 episode called “Ticket Through the Sound Barrier”, which outlines the then-current state of supersonic transport (SST) initiatives being undertaken by NASA.

MIT reporter and basso profondo [John Fitch] opens the program at NASA’s Ames research center. Here, he outlines the three major considerations of the SST initiative. First, the aluminium typically used in subsonic aircraft fuselage cannot withstand the extreme temperatures caused by air friction at supersonic speeds. Although the Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde was skinned in aluminium, it was limited to Mach 2.02 because of heating issues. In place of aluminium, a titanium alloy with a melting point of 3,000°F is being developed and tested.

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Wall climbing robot uses supersonic grippers

supersonic_wall_gripper

Watch out Spidey, there’s a new wall climber in town!

Researchers [Matthew Journee, XiaoQi Chen, James Robertson, Mark Jermy, and Mathieu Sellier] recently unveiled their wall climbing wonder bot at the 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. Like most other wall climbing bots, theirs operates on the Bernoulli principle to keep it stuck to the surface, but that’s where the similarities end.

Unlike other Bernoulli-based climbers, this robot’s gripper never actually touches the surface it is climbing. The researchers were able to accomplish this feat by designing a specialized gripper which forces air through a 25 μm gap, creating a very powerful low pressure vortex. The gripper’s design compresses the air by shape alone, causing the air flow to reach speeds of Mach 3, without relying on powerful pumps or increased air volume.

The researchers state that their supersonic gripper can support about five times the weight of a conventional Bernoulli gripper, and as you can see in the video below it also has no problem climbing a wide variety of surfaces.

Window-washing Roomba, here we come!

[via Make]

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