Sunday, October 2, 2011

First flying carpet built, running on batteries

After the cloak of invisibility, scientists have created yet another item that has long been present merely in our imagination: the flying carpet. By incorporating rather complicated piezoelectric effects into a plastic sheet, scientists of Princeton University have found a way to let it float above the ground. By creating air waves that move from front to back under the sheet, the plastic carpet managed to stay floating just above the ground, with a speed of one centimeter per second. Though the 'flying carpet' is limited, its concept is interesting. According to Princeton University, the mechanism used to let the plastic float might one day be used in a Mars rover, to float around the planet.
The limiting factor of the carpet is that it's bound to batteries, that power the actuators responsible for creating air waves. Therefore, the plastic can only float on the spot, but a new solar powered version should be able to float freely. The researchers are also planning updates to increase the speed to one meter per second. A solar powered high-speed version would resemble a flying carpet more closely, and give it a fantasy feeling.

Because the sheet floats by letting air ripples flow from front to back, it is not really flying like a true magic carpet. However, the technology can be useful for creating floating vehicles. The plastic sheet by Princeton University is a prototype, and the technology needs to evolve before it can be useful in any way. Nevertheless, letting a piece of plastic float above ground is pretty interesting.

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