Paloma Gutiérrez, in the foreground, in the wind tunnel test area of the UMA School of industrial engineering. SUR
New research from Malaga university could help shorten the waiting time between aircraft take-offs by 10%

New research from Malaga university could help shorten the waiting time between aircraft take-offs by 10%

Researchers from UMA, working in conjunction with aviation giant Airbus, have developed a new technology that reduces the air vortex generated by planes

Francisco Gutiérrez


Tuesday, 2 April 2024, 07:42


The wind tunnel of the University of Malaga, one of the most advanced in Spain with its super-powerful fans that reach up to 40 metres per second, has been the facility where a group of University of Malaga (UMA) researchers have developed an exciting new technology. The creation makes it possible to reduce the air vortex generated by an aircraft and, in this way, shorten the waiting time between aircraft take-offs.

The research, which has been developed in collaboration with the European aviation giant Airbus, was led by Paloma Gutiérrez, lecturer in the department of mechanical, thermal and fluids engineering at UMA. The results of this work, which has been funded by the ministry of science, have been published in two articles in the scientific journals Physics of fluids' and European Journal of Mechanics B/Fluids. This new technology is in the process of having exclusive rights drawn up.

The team of UMA researchers developed a system that makes it possible to reduce intervals between take-offs by 10% - currently the time ranges between 60 and 90 seconds. When an aircraft takes off from an airport, a turbulent wake is formed which prevents another aircraft from taking off for a reasonable period of time, at least one minute, in order to avoid the air tube and ensure the climb.

This turbulence is caused by vortices generated at the ends of the wings. The researchers propose to modify these parts of the aircraft by fitting them with a kind of tube that injects air to break up these vortices.

New materials for aviation

The researchers (seven from UMA and one from the University of Seville) found that with this system the waiting time between take-offs could be reduced by at least 10 percent - between six and nine seconds could be saved between each take-off.

The researchers, who have been working on this project since September 2022, have had the support of the aeronautical group Airbus from the outset, with whom they meet every six months to present the latest advances in the research. Researchers also looked at how aircraft wings should be designed, built with increasingly lighter and more flexible materials, to offer greater lift and less drag or friction with the air, which would contribute to reducing fuel consumption.

Other companies in the aviation sector have also shown interest in the research, which the experts have been able to validate with the help of the UMA wind tunnel, a rectangular cubicle equipped with super-powerful fans that reach up to 40 metres per second, making it one of the most powerful in Spain.

"Having this has allowed us to make a lot of progress, to the point that the research team has just launched a patent for its system that manages to accelerate the decay of vortices based on a prototype, and we are awaiting its recognition at international level," said Paloma Gutiérrez.

Aero-hydrodynamics laboratory

The UMA school of industrial engineering has a vehicle aero-hydrodynamics laboratory where both experimental wind tunnel tests and hydrodynamic tunnel and channel tests are carried out. The wind tunnel is 19 metres long by 6.4 metres wide and up to 2.8 metres high at the entrance.

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