Since planes were invented, they’ve flown using moving parts to push air around. Sure, there are gliders and dirigibles, which float more than fly, but powered flight is all about propellers (that’s why they call them that). Today that changes, with the first-ever “solid state” aircraft, flying with no moving parts at all by generating “ionic wind.”

If it sounds like science fiction… well, that’s about right. MIT’s Stephen Barrett explains that he took his inspiration directly from Star Trek.

“In the long-term future, planes shouldn’t have propellers and turbines,” Barrett said in an MIT news release. “They should be more like the shuttles in ‘Star Trek,’ that have just a blue glow and silently glide.”

“When I got an appointment at university,” he explained, “I thought, well, now I’ve got the opportunity to explore this, and started looking for physics that enabled that to happen.”

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