Vol. 104, No. 6, p. 149
December 1955


IT MAY BE that in the future your umbrella will consist of nothing more than a small plastic knob on the end of a stick, if the research being done by Jacque Fresco in his small Los Angeles laboratory is successful. Fresco has been doing some odd stunts with electrified plastic disks and high-voltage electricity. To demonstrate, he turns on a small stream of water from a laboratory faucet, then one at a time, holds various plastic disks near the stream. Depending on its electrical charge, the disk may pull the water toward it, or push it away. The electric umbrella would consist of a plastic knob charged to repel water. Held overhead, it would keep you dry.

Fresco believes, too, that he has found new ways of preventing icing on aircraft wings and new ways to maneuver aircraft. Under another stream of water, he places a model of an aircraft wing, and then tums on a high-voltage source that is connected to the wing. The stream of water is immediately pushed away from contact with the wing. This is his de-icer, which prevents ice by keeping all moisture off the wing.

In another experiment, Fresco connects the high-voltage source to electrodes that protrude from the tips of a small wing. When the current is turned on, the wing dips to the left or the right, depending on which way the electrodes are bent. Fresco suggests that a high-voltage control system weighing much less than present mechanical control systems may be developed for aircraft in the future. He thinks, in fact, that after further development, electrical forces will be used not only to maneuver aircraft and keep them free of ice, but also to decrease the density of air on the leading edge. This would reduce drag as well as aerodynamic heating, an important block m the design of supersonic aircraft.