Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Airbus Announces See-Through Airplane for 2050 Flight

On June 14, 2011, French aircraft builder Airbus unveiled plans for its "Concept Cabin" (see video below) which Airbus calls "a whole new flying experience inspired by nature." The Concept Cabin would feature a "neural network" of artificial intelligence (AI) that sets up an "intelligent interface between passenger and plane." The plane's AI would enable passengers to verbally request changes in their environment, such as seats that change to a person's body shape. We don't know if the Concept Cabin will produce tea, Earl Gray, hot on request; we suspect that traditional human flight attendants will still be needed for that. Perhaps the most stunning feature of the Concept Cabin, however, is its ability to become transparent. Airbus says that "The aircraft’s bionic structure mimics the efficiency of bird bone which is optimised to provide strength where needed, and allows for an intelligent cabin wall membrane which controls air temperature and can become transparent to give passengers open panoramic views." More about the Concept Cabin at Airbus.com... Story continues below this video
"The structure of the plane itself is straight out of an Asimov novel," writes gogalavanting.com. "Per the Airbus renderings, the Concept Cabin features an entirely transparent roof. According to a release, the 'bionic structure mimics the efficiency of bird bone which is optimised to provide strength where needed, and allows for an intelligent cabin wall membrane which controls air temperature and can become transparent to give passengers open panoramic views.' There are no further details about how the technology of the membrane will be developed." Although Airbus has not said how they would make the plane transparent, there has been work for years on making opaque materials see-through. "Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium," reported PhysOrg in July, 2009, "by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. 'Transparent aluminium' previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie Star Trek IV, but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion." Trouble is, the transparency effect lasts for only 40 femtoseconds (one millionth of a nanosecond or 10 -15 of a second and is a measurement sometimes used in laser technology) and requires bombardment by an extremely powerful x-ray laser. Some great photos of the Concept Cabin can be seen at The Daily Bhaskar.

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