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  Modelling of buoyancy control for new generation aircraft

   Faculty of Engineering, Computing and the Environment

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Aircraft research is in a state of transition, with a much broader range of possible new aircraft technologies under investigation than ever before. New technologies include boundary layer ingestion, hydrogen fuelled aircraft, electrically powered aircraft and distributed propulsion schemes [IATA Technology Roadmap to 2050 (2019)]. Most of these are driven by the imperative to reduce carbon emissions in order to reduce, and indeed reverse, the growth of the carbon footprint produced by the increasing number of air miles flown each year [IATA 20 year passenger forecast (2019)].

This imperative has reinvigorated the notion of the use of ballonets to produce lift in aircraft, primarily in assisting craft to reach their cruising altitude, and considerable research interest in this area has been generated [Zhu et al (2021), Wang et al (2021)]. It is estimated that up to 20% of the total fuel consumption for a short-haul flight is consumed in reaching the required cruising altitude alone [see, for instance, the Quora reference below], and at the moment the energy content of the fuel is completely lost. This project proposes to investigate the use of ballonets to assist in fuel reduction by production of buoyant lift, by modelling a range of possible configurations and the use of a mix of potential gases. A number of possible configurations will be investigated, such as the use of fixed or inflatable elements, along with potential energy recovery in descent by re-pressurisation of the buoyant gases.

This project will require a sound understanding of physical principles, especially those relating to flight and buoyancy, as well as good modelling skills, It would particularly suit a graduate in Physics, Aerospace or Aeronautical Engineering, or an equivalent area. Detailed background knowledge in this area is not required, but enthusiasm, flexibility and a drive to make progress are essential. 

Engineering (12) Mathematics (25)


Quora: accessed 14.01.2022
IATA 20 year passenger forecast (2019) accessed 14.01.2022
IATA Technology Roadmap to 2050 (2019)], accessed 14.01.2022
Zhu, Q., Tang, X. and Tong, M., 2021. Study on unsaturated shapes of helium ballonet of rigid airship during ascent process. Aerospace Science and Technology, 118, p.107001.
Wang, J., Li, C. and Meng, X., 2021. A general calculation method to specify center-of-buoyancy for the stratospheric airship with multiple gas cells. Advances in Space Research, 67(8), pp.2517-2533.

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