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Volume 563 Issue 7732, 22 November 2018

A first for flight

For more than 100 years, aeroplanes have taken flight thanks to engine-based propellers and turbines, mostly powered by fossil fuels. In this week’s issue, Steven Barrett and his colleagues reveal an alternative: a plane powered by a near-silent engine that has no moving parts. Solid-state propulsion systems use electric fields to ionize the molecules in the air, which then collide with neutral molecules, resulting in an ionic wind that generates thrust. It had been thought that thrust-to-power limitations would prevent such systems from propelling planes but the researchers demonstrate this is not so with the sustained flight of a solid-state aeroplane. Weighing 2.45 kilograms, the plane has a 5-metre wingspan and carries a battery stack and power converter that produces around 500 watts. In the test flights, the plane achieved a thrust-to-power ratio comparable to that of a jet engine, although the overall efficiency was lower. This proof of concept opens up possibilities for electroaerodynamic propulsion, which could lead to quieter, low-emissions aeroplanes.

Cover image: Christina Y. He

This Week

News in Focus





    News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Aeroplanes use propellers and turbines, and are typically powered by fossil-fuel combustion. An alternative method of propelling planes has been demonstrated that does not require moving parts or combustion.

    • Franck Plouraboué
  • News & Views |

    The discovery of a mechanism that leads to cancer-therapy resistance highlights the many ways that tumour cells can adapt to survive — and reveals the limitations of categorizing patients by their gene mutations.

    • Katharina Schlacher
  • News & Views |

    A strategy for using organic free radicals to make light-emitting diodes circumvents the constraints that limit the efficiency with which other organic LEDs convert electric current into light.

    • Tetsuro Kusamoto
    • Hiroshi Nishihara
  • News & Views |

    A nanometre-scale mechanism has been proposed to explain how bacteria improve their grip on human cells. The findings have implications for drug discovery, and might inspire biomimetic applications such as adhesives.

    • John R. Dutcher
  • Perspectives

  • Perspective |

    This Perspective discusses developments in LED-based solid-state lighting for physiological and agricultural applications, and the anticipated benefits in terms of health and productivity.

    • P. M. Pattison
    • J. Y. Tsao
    • B. Bugbee
  • Articles

  • Article | | Open Access

    An improved, fully re-annotated Aedes aegypti genome assembly (AaegL5) provides insights into the sex-determining M locus, chemosensory systems that help mosquitoes to hunt humans and loci involved in insecticide resistance and will help to generate intervention strategies to fight this deadly disease vector.

    • Benjamin J. Matthews
    • Olga Dudchenko
    • Leslie B. Vosshall
  • Article |

    Cytoplasmic, amyloid-like oligomeric assemblies that contain TDP-43 are increased in damaged tissues with elevated regeneration, thereby enhancing the possibility of amyloid fibre formation and/or aggregation of TDP-43 in disease.

    • Thomas O. Vogler
    • Joshua R. Wheeler
    • Roy Parker
  • Letters

  • Letter |

    A solid-state propulsion system can sustain powered flight, as demonstrated by an electroaerodynamically propelled heavier-than-air aeroplane.

    • Haofeng Xu
    • Yiou He
    • Steven R. H. Barrett
  • Letter |

    Organic light-emitting devices containing radical emitters can achieve an efficiency of 27 per cent at deep-red and infrared wavelengths based on the excitation of spin doublets, rather than singlet or triplet states.

    • Xin Ai
    • Emrys W. Evans
    • Feng Li
  • Letter |

    A phylogenetic assessment based on Raman microspectroscopy of pigment traces in fossilized eggshells from all major dinosaur clades reveals that eggshell coloration and pigment pattern originated in nonavian theropod dinosaurs.

    • Jasmina Wiemann
    • Tzu-Ruei Yang
    • Mark A. Norell
  • Letter |

    New World hantaviruses—which cause a severe human respiratory disease—use surface glycoproteins to bind to the human protocadherin-1 protein and enter endothelial cells in vitro; depleting protocadherin-1 in Syrian golden hamsters largely protects against disease.

    • Rohit K. Jangra
    • Andrew S. Herbert
    • Kartik Chandran
  • Letter |

    Mice with whole-body or liver-specific deletion of Atg7 release circulating arginase I and have reduced levels of serum arginine, which impairs the growth of allografted arginine-auxotrophic tumours.

    • Laura Poillet-Perez
    • Xiaoqi Xie
    • Eileen White
  • Letter |

    The carboxy terminus of human UDP-α-d-glucose-6-dehydrogenase is structurally disordered, but has sequence-independent effects on the conformation of the enzyme and binding of an allosteric inhibitor, suggesting a reason for the persistence of intrinsically disordered peptide segments in the proteome.

    • Nicholas D. Keul
    • Krishnadev Oruganty
    • Zachary A. Wood

Amendments & Corrections

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |


    Skin is the body’s largest organ and first line of defence against disease and injury. Researchers have been working to unlock skin’s secrets so as to help heal, treat and mimic this essential barrier

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