Aircraft interiors seem to get more and more cramped with each passing year, but in terms of overall plane design, not much has changed recently. However, that may not be the case for much longer, if a new report from MIT News is anything to go by.
The university has published an article detailing the results of new research conducted by MIT and NASA engineers. Said engineers have created a "radically new" type of airplane wing which possesses the remarkable ability to shape-shift.
During flight, the wing can alter its form to better control a plane's momentum and direction. Instead of relying on "separate movable surfaces" (like wing flaps) to yaw right or left, this new wing can deform its entire body thanks to its unique construction: it's made up of "thousands" of small triangular struts.
In addition to being more flexible, the new wing type is also significantly lighter due to its mixture of rigid and flexible components (which are covered by a lightweight polymer material). As such, the wing should make aircrafts it is installed on quite a bit more energy efficient.
One of the main benefits of this new wing type is that it can be configured with an "optimal" set of wing parameters for different phases of flight, such as landing, takeoff, cruising, and taxiing. By providing so much more room for optimization, energy costs could be even further reduced, while also making aircrafts easier to control.
Obviously, these wings are still in early development, and will need a lot more testing and refining before they ever become available for practical use.