Flight tests of a hybrid power plant with a superconducting electric motor have begun. It was installed on a flying laboratory based on the Yak-40. According to the N + 1 Central Institute of Aviation Engine Engineering named after Baranov, the first flight of an experimental aircraft with a hybrid installation took place on June 17. In July, he took to the air again at the MAKS-2021 air show.
Superconductivity is the property of some materials to conduct an electric current with zero resistance. This phenomenon has many applications: super-strong magnets, ultra-precise magnetic radiation sensors and trains on a magnetic cushion are made on its basis. In the design of an electric motor, superconductors should help to achieve a lower battery charge consumption and provide a high efficiency with a small size and weight.
The practical application of superconductivity still rests on one problem: this phenomenon occurs only at low temperatures or extremely high pressures. Even high-temperature superconductors — ceramic materials based on mixed copper oxide-lose this property at a temperature significantly lower than room temperature. For example, the cuprate of the composition HgBa2Ca2Cu3O8+x has a transition temperature of minus 109 degrees Celsius. In a solid material based on hydrogen sulfide H3S and methane CH4, superconductivity is maintained up to 15 degrees Celsius, but at a pressure of more than 1.4 million atmospheres. Therefore, to work with superconductors, it is necessary to build cooling systems with liquid nitrogen or helium.
Despite all the difficulties, several companies are developing superconducting aircraft engines. Among them are the Russian SuperOx and the European Airbus. The latter in March of this year launched the Ascend program to create a demonstrator of an electric or hybrid engine using superconductivity technology and liquid hydrogen as a refrigerant.
Meanwhile, SuperOx has already created an electric motor with a superconducting winding. Its power is 500 kilowatts, and the efficiency is 98 percent. Bench tests of the engine began last summer, after which it was installed in the nose of the Yak-40 flying laboratory in the winter. The aircraft is also equipped with an electric generator with an output power of 400 kilowatts and a weight of 100 kilograms. The turboshaft engine in the tail section of the Yak-40 is responsible for the operation of the generator.
Flight tests of the experimental Yak-40 with a hybrid power plant, which included a superconducting electric motor, began on June 17. The first flight took place at the airfield of the Siberian Research Institute of Aviation named after Chaplygin. After that, the flying laboratory again demonstrated the flight at the MAKS-2021 air show.
Hybrid power plants are currently being developed by several Russian companies. Earlier we wrote about UEC-Klimov, which creates a hybrid engine based on a helicopter.