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Sustainability in the aviation industry calls for aircraft that are significantly quieter and more fuel efficient than today's fleet. Achieving this will require revolutionary new concepts, in particular, electric propulsion. Superconducting machines offer the only viable path to achieve the power densities needed in airborne applications. This paper outlines the main issues involved in using superconductors for aeropropulsion. We review our investigation of the feasibility of superconducting electric propulsion, which integrate for the first time, the multiple disciplines and areas of expertise needed to design electric aircraft. It is shown that superconductivity is clearly the enabling technology for the more efficient turbo-electric aircraft of the future.
Date of Publication: June 2009