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NASA announces plan to revolutionize air travel with first-of-its-kind jet engine: 'We've been laser-focused since day one'

"What we're creating has never been done before."

"What we’re creating has never been done before."

Photo Credit: NASA

A group of NASA experts aren't shooting for the stars with a breakthrough jet engine core design now in development. Instead, the hybrid machine could reduce fuel use by up to 10% for Earth-based travel on future passenger planes. 

It's part of an ingenious project that should lower both air pollution and travel costs. 

The engine is being designed with help from General Electric Aerospace. It will use a smaller core and a larger fan, focusing on efficiency and sustainability.

Dubbed HyTEC (Hybrid Thermally Efficient Core), it could become the first engine of its kind produced for airliners, according to a story by Interesting Engineering. 

"GE Aerospace and NASA have a long history of collaboration to advance the latest aviation technologies. The HyTEC program builds on this relationship to help chart the future of more sustainable flight," GE's Kathleen Mondino said in a press release. 

The tech is intended to be ready for use in the 2030s. It achieves greater efficiency by generating the same thrust as a regular engine using the smaller core/larger fan package — all augmented by electricity. As a result, it burns less fuel.

A NASA diagram showing the inner workings of the proposed engine looks to be about what you'd expect, including gears, shafts, and other mechanics. "High pressure" accompanies a few of the part descriptions. 

The concept will put a lot of heat and pressure on the engine, so the experts need to make it from strong materials, which the team claims to have identified in the first stage of work. The project is now in the second phase. Team members are building and testing the innovation, all per IE and NASA. 

"We've been laser-focused since day one. We began the project with certain technical goals and metrics for success and, so far, we haven't had to change course from any of them," project lead Anthony Nerone said in a NASA report. 

NASA and GE aren't alone when it comes to hybrid and electric plane technology, as companies like Ampaire have projects in development. Simple Flying reports that fuel can account for up to 20-40% of an airline's costs. So, more efficient engines or all-electric options could greatly impact flight pricing.

The inventions should also help reduce some of the aviation industry's planet-warming pollution output. Our World in Data reports that the sector generates about 2.5% of the planet's carbon dioxide emissions — and has accounted for about 4% of the world's heat-up to date. In total, Earth has warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1850, according to Climate.gov. It's part of a troubling trend that could have terrible, irreversible results, according to climate experts. 

NASA reports that human-caused planet warming is linked to more frequent and intense floods, droughts, and other disasters. It's a problem impacting insurance premiums, as larger swaths of the planet are now exposed to greater extreme-weather risk. 

The HyTEC engine would tackle the problem directly by using less fuel, per the experts. 

"What we're creating has never been done before, and it involves many different technologies coming together to form a new type of engine," Nerone said in the NASA summary.

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