Future aircraft could tap energy from landing wheels say researchers

Feb. 24, 2012, Lincoln, U.K. - Researchers from the University of Lincoln in the U.K. have assessed the feasibility of harnessing energy from the wheel rotation of aircraft landing gear to generate electricity.

February 24, 2012
By aerospace-technology.com

The captured energy could be used to power its taxiing to and from airport buildings, reducing the need to utilize the jet engines, resulting in reduction in emissions, fuel expenditure and noise pollution at airports.

As part of the Research Councils UK Energy Program, the 12-month 'Feasibility Study of Energy Recovery from Landing Aircraft' has revealed that engine-less taxiing will further control aviation fuel, emissions and noise pollution at airports.

University of Lincoln research professor, Paul Stewart, who led the research, said: "Taxiing is a highly fuel-inefficient part of any trip by plane with emissions and noise pollution caused by jet engines being a huge issue for airports all over the world."

Stewart continued: "If the next generation of aircraft that emerges over the next 15 – 20 years could incorporate this kind of technology, it would deliver enormous benefits, especially for people living near airports. Currently, commercial aircraft spend a lot of time on the ground with their noisy jet engines running. In the future this technology could significantly reduce the need to do that."

Research revealed that the energy generated by an aircraft's braking system during it's landing can be captured and converted into electricity by motor-generators assembled into the landing gear and can then be supplied to the in-hub motors in the wheels when taxiing.

The research formed part of a project that aimed to evaluate the essential feasibility of several ways of capturing energy from a landing aircraft.

Stewart said: "We explored a wide variety of ways of harnessing that energy, such as generating electricity from the interaction between copper coils embedded in the runway and magnets attached to the underside of the aircraft, and then feeding the power produced into the local electricity grid."

The research also revealed that the weight of aircraft can be the major issue, which can be reduced by minimizing the conductors and electronic power converters employed in an on-board energy recovery system of the aircraft.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded Airport Energy Technologies Network (AETN) was set up in 2008 to access low-carbon research in the field of aviation.

The research was conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of Loughborough, UK.