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PROOF-OF-CONCEPT ELECTRIC AIRCRAFT UNVEILED

BATTERY POWERED Wisconsin-based Sonex Aircraft has unveiled a prototype electric-powered aeroplane. The electric motor, controller, battery pack and charging systems are installed in its Waiex light sport aircraft. In co-operation with Aeroconversions Products, a joint "E-Flight Initiative" is investigating battery- and ethanol-based powerplants to improve efficiency and performance. Aeroversions' AeroVee 2.0 piston engine will be altered to use blended or pure ethanol fuel.

FUTURE UAVS COULD LIVE OFF THE LAND

BIO POWERED Microbial fuel cells could one day be used to power unmanned air vehicles, generating electricity by breaking down biodegradable waste, according to Pennsylvania State University researchers. A team from the university's civil and environmental engineering department has generated electricity from a fuel cell that breaks down cellulose using microbes. Although microbial fuel cells have low power densities, with the best output being about 2.5W/m2, power densities have increased by six orders of magnitude over the last eight years.

NASA TO TEST SYNTHETIC FUELS IN PW308

ALTERNATIVE FUEL NASA's Glenn Research Center is to purchase a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308 turbofan for testing of synthetic fuels. The Ohio-based research centre's new Alternative Fuel Research Laboratory is studying the conversion of energy sources such as coal, natural gas, biomass and shale oil into alternatives to jet fuel. Glenn will focus on the Fisher-Tropsch process for converting non-petroleum feedstocks such as coal, biomass and natural gas into a wide variety of hydrocarbon-based transport chemicals and fuels.

PENTAGON SEEKS MORE ENERGY FROM THE SUN

SOLAR POWER The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has begun a three-year collaboration with the DuPont-University of Delaware Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) consortium to increase solar cell efficiency to over 50%, while developing manufacturing processes to deliver VHESC devices more cheaply than today's commercial solar cells.

MASSIVE PRESS WILL PRODUCE JET ENGINE FORGINGS

UNDER PRESSURE Production of the world's largest isothermal forging press is under way at Pennsylvania-based Erie Press Systems. Beginning next year, Wisconsin-based aerospace supplier Ladish will use the 12,500t-capacity pull-down press to produce large-diameter, close-tolerance forgings for jet engines. Erie says forging speed is adjustable for precise strain-rate velocity control and press performance data will be recorded for each part forged.

UNIFIED STARTER-GENERATOR SAVES SPACE IN UAVS

ELECTRICAL SYSTEM Israel's Bental Industries has introduced a family of unified starter-generators for unmanned air vehicles. Combining engine starting and power generation reduces weight and volume requirements and increases UAV endurance, the company says. The integral unit starts the vehicle's piston engine then, once it senses the powerplant is operating, automatically switches to generating mode. The family of starter-generators covers the 600W to 2.8kW power range.