Prototype 'flying carpet' hovers using electrified plastic threads

It's less Disney and more drop-dead cool. While not actually made of carpet, but rather a thin, 4-inch sheet of plastic that hovers just above the ground, it still calls to mind fantastic possibilities.

The flying carpet, brainchild of Princeton Grad Student Noah Jafferis, is wired with a complex system of electrical sensors and conducting threads that create "ripples" of air moving front to back of the sheet that propels it into the air. It's these undulating ripples that create the movement as the air is thrust out the back — allowing it to move at a speed of a centimeter per second.

Like many great scientific advancements, the flying carpet was a bit of an accident with a large dose of perspiration thrown in. Jafferis had originally been tinkering with the idea of printing electronic circuits with nano-inks (even THAT gives this geek girl goosebumps!), when he read a paper written by Harvard Professor Mahadevan which theorized the concept. Jafferis just couldn't get the idea of the carpet out of his head and he headed to the lab. After two years of tinkering to get the sensor feedback just right, the wafting motion was perfected and the flying carpet was born. Phew!

There is some good news and bad news about the flying carpet. We'll give you the good news first — while the prototype flying carpet operates much like a hovercraft, the big difference is that it has no mechanical moving parts that could get gummed up with dirt or particulates. Somehow, we think the Department of Defense or NASA has Jafferis on speed dial.

The bad news? Given the existing materials and technology, the guys at the lab estimate it would take a carpet with a wingspan of about 165 feet to carry a human at this point. Never fear though, the team is already looking at how to incorporate solar power to eliminate the tethers, to allow it to travel across great distances. And, looking a little lower tech, they are studying the movements of manta rays to perfect the movement.

With the possibility of flying carpets in our future, we can't help but wonder what other childhood stories will take shape.

Via BBC News

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