The evolution of airplanes and living beings follow a similar path, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physics. Of course, technological development has taken place faster than the biological evolution, but they follow a similar pattern. Any technological advancement in the airplane that didn’t fit the pattern has failed. The now-retired supersonic passenger jet Concorde is a fine example of failed design.
Airplanes have evolved to increase efficiency
Adrian Bejan, professor of mechanical engineering at the Duke University and lead author of the study, said in a news release that airplanes from airplanes from propeller-driven DC-3s to Boeing 787s have evolved to boost efficiency. The study also outlines how manufacturers can improve designs, and make airplanes more fuel-efficient.
Bejan proposed the constructal law in 1996. He says the airplane designs follow the law he explained about 20 years ago. The law states that a system must evolve to improve its “access to flow” in order to survive. For instance, the vascular system in our body has evolved over time to provide blood access to flow from large arteries to smaller capillaries. Researchers claim that everything around us, including tree branches, river systems, and modern highways, follow the same law.
Same design features could be seen in airplanes and large animals
Researchers said that good airplane designs could be plotted on a graph, and they show a specific pattern of evolution. Through more than 100 years of airplane development, engine mass remains proportional to the plane’s body size. The wing span has also remained proportional to the length of the airplane’s fuselage.
Bejan said you could observe the same design features in any large land animal. Bigger animals travel farther distances and have larger lifespans, just like passenger airplanes have been designed. The ratio of the engine to aircraft size is similar to the ratio of an animal’s body size to its heart, muscles and lungs. Researchers plotted thousands of statistics to conduct this study.
The Concorde failed because of its design. It was small, had short wings and a long fuselage. It also had poor fuel economy and huge engines.