'Magic Carpet' Modeled After Manta Ray
September 30, 2011

‘Magic Carpet’ Modeled After Manta Ray

A team at Princeton University has developed a four-inch transparent magic carpet.

The team, lead by graduate student Noah Jafferis, created a flying carpet based on the manta ray that utilizes piezoelectric actuators and sensors. 

The electric current flexes the sheet into waves that drive tiny pockets of air across the sheet.

The prototype moves at about 120 feet per hour and only travels a few inches high above the ground.

Jafferis said he is working on a solar powered version that removes the need for a battery tether and allows it to travel over large distances.

He said the device has more in common with a hovercraft than an airplane.

"It has to keep close to the ground," Jafferis told BBC's Science in Action, "because the air is then trapped between the sheet and the ground. As the waves move along the sheet it basically pumps the air out the back." That is the source of the thrust.

He said the device has no moving components so it would be great for working in a dusty environment that normally eats up vehicles with moving parts.

The prototype is described in Applied Physics Letters.


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