Center for High-Efficiency Electrical Technologies for Aircraft (CHEETA)

Project Introduction

The aeronautics industry has been challenged on many fronts to increase efficiency, reduce emissions, and decrease dependency on carbon-based fuels. With subsonic transports serving as the dominant contributor to the fuel consumption and carbon footprint of global aviation, the need for environmentally-responsible transportation has been met with a boom of research in the field of aircraft propulsion electrification across industry, government, and academic organizations. However, adoption of electrified propulsion systems for large commercial aircraft today is unattainable, due to the lack of motors and power electronics appropriately sized for these vehicles, high weight requirements of conventional electrical energy storage systems, and new principles required to design these classes of aircraft.

The mission of the Center for High-Efficiency Electrical Technologies for Aircraft (CHEETA) program is to develop, mature, and design disruptive technologies for electric commercial aviation. The associated technologies being researched include distributed aero-propulsion system integration, high-efficiency electrochemical power conversion, flight-weight electric machines and power electronics, materials and systems for superconducting high-efficiency power transmission, and methods for complex system integration and optimization. Additionally, the current program is investigating the use of unconventional energy storage and power generation architectures, such as liquid hydrogen fuel and high-efficiency fuel cell systems.

The research program provides a direct line-of-sight to not only achieving, but potentially even exceeding the aviation community goals for transition to alternative propulsion and energy through convergence of various novel technologies. The end result of maturation and integration of these technologies is an aircraft system with a quiet, efficient propulsion system that produces zero carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter emissions at the vehicle level.

Anticipated Benefits

Through this project, an entirely new class of electrical machines and drive systems will be developed, which can be applied to future electric aircraft or other markets such as wind energy, marine and ground transportation systems, remote power generation, and space systems. The research through this program on distributed propulsion and aero-propulsive integration will produce more energy-efficient commercial aircraft with improved safety and tolerance to failures. Development of superconducting technologies will also facilitate dramatic improvements in power density of electric machines and ultra-efficient high-power electrical transmission. Finally, the research being conducted through this study represents a brand new technology field which, if matured, will lead to US leadership in product development and export.

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

Organizations Performing Work Role Type Location
University of Illinois Lead Organization Academic Champaign, IL
Boeing Supporting Organization Industry Chicago, IL
Chicago State University Supporting Organization Academic Chicago, IL
Boeing Supporting Organization Industry Chicago, IL
General Electric (GE) Supporting Organization Industry Boston, MA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Supporting Organization Academic Cambridge, MA
Ohio State University Supporting Organization Academic Columbus, OH
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Supporting Organization Academic Troy, NY
University of Arkansas Supporting Organization Academic Fayetteville, AR
University of Dayton Supporting Organization Academic Dayton, OH

Organizational Responsibility

Responsible Mission Directorate

Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD)

Lead Organization

University of Illinois

Responsible Program

Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program

Project Management

Principal Investigator

Phillip Ansell


Arijit Banerjee

Edward Greitzer

David Hall

Kiruba Haran

Kai James

Fang Luo

Jason Merret

Mike Sumption

Bang-hung Tsao

Luigi Vanfretti

Valerie Goss

James M. Falcone

Mary Ann Sebastian

Ernst W. Stautner

Alan Mantooth

Shailesh Atreya

Project Duration

Jul 2019 - Jun 2022

Technology Maturity (TRL)

Start: 1

Current: 1

Estimated End: 3

Applied Research
Demo & Test