MIT's Millimeter Turbine to be Ready This Year
Date: Saturday, February 10, 2007 @ 09:20:37 GMT
Topic: Devices

After a decade of work, the first millimeter size turbine engine developed by researchers at MIT should become operational by the end of this summer. The new turbine engine will allow the creation of smaller and more powerful batteries than anything currently in existence. It might also serve as the basis for tiny powerful motors with applications ranging from micro UAVs to children's toys. In the more distant future huge arrays of hydrogen fueled millimeter turbine engines could even be the basis for clean, quiet and cost effective power plants.

Turbine engine history

Turbine engine history goes back to the beginning of the 20'th century. In 1903 the Norwegian inventor Aegidus Elling became the first person to successfully construct a gas turbine engine which produced excess power, reaching 11hp (the Wright brothers Kitty Hawk which flew for the first time that year had 12hp). Several years later Charles Curtis, who invented the Curtis steam engine, filed the first patent application in the U.S. for a gas turbine engine which he was granted in 1914 (but not without some controversy). Four years later, in 1918, General Electric (GE), founded by Edison in the mid 1870's, started work on aircraft engine turbochargers and two decades later on aircraft jet engines on their gas turbine division (now one of the biggest in the world). In 1930 the inventor and Royal Air Force officer Sir Frank Whittle, building on previous work including that of Elling, designed and patented the first gas turbine for jet propulsion. After a neck to neck race to build the first jet powered engine, the German Hans von Ohain, working with the Heinkel Company, became the first to design and test a jet powered aircraft in 1939 beating Whittle which suffered from technical problems with his design.

After the war turbine jet engines continued to develop and grow in size and power forming the basis for almost all modern aircraft engines. Holding the world record today is the GE90 series engine which helps power the Boeing 777 Airliner. With 22 blades the engine is over 120 inch (3 meters) tall producing over 115,000lb of thrust (over 127,000lb on a test) this engine is 10,000 more powerful than that used by the Wright brothers one century ago.


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