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On Boeing's concept aircraft, the SUGARVolt, there are wing struts connecting the fuselage and the wings, which is for making sure that the wings do not bend too much during flight. SUGARVolt concept

Could the wing struts cause aerodynamic instabilities, and could this make the aircraft more efficient, or less efficient? In what ways?

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Struts like those on the SUGAR Volt and SUGAR Freeze have been used on gliders and propeller aircraft without problems. Since they are loaded in tension, they can oscillate like the string on a guitar. Note that they are braced at two thirds of their span to reduce their free length and to increase their resonance frequencies. A coupling between the strut bending motion and oscillating aerodynamic forces can be expected, but only at speeds above the SUGAR Volt and SUGAR Freeze design speed.

Henschel 126

Henschel 126 with a very similar strut arrangement. Only with the strut it was possible to reduce the wing chord at the root in order to give the pilot better upward visibility (picture source).

Those struts do indeed reduce drag. They cause friction drag but allow to build the wing much lighter, thus reducing the required lift and the inevitable induced drag.

Modern gliders have very similar wings but do not use struts. This might seem puzzling, but can be explained by the low payload of a glider, which is at most two humans and their equipment. In order to fly faster, gliders use water ballast to make their wings even heavier. Therefore, a glider will not benefit from a lighter wing.

Nimeta single-seat glider

Nimeta single-seat glider (picture source)

In contrast, a revenue-generating aircraft needs to pack as much payload as possible. It cannot afford to carry unnecessary weight around in its structure. Also, a lot of its mass is concentrated in the fuselage, which increases the wing's root bending moment. A strut will help to reduce the root bending moment greatly and will enable a much lighter wing structure.

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In this video it looks like the struts won't make any lift. According to Boeing the airplane is designed to make more lift than planes today so it's totally more efficient.

The struts make the plane less efficient in theory, but without them the wings must be much shorter and then it's even less efficient.

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  • $\begingroup$ Struts on such an aircraft would almost certainly be airfoil-shaped to reduce drag, not "just straight". Then their lift/buoyancy would depend on the angle of attack. Camber would have some influence but it is not absolutely necessary; there are airplanes whose wings have no camber. $\endgroup$ – David K Dec 12 '17 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ Its negligible on very heavier than air, but air creates a buoyant force on anything having volume, whatever the density. Measured In a vacuum chamber at sea level, average human body weighs roughly 1N more than in the atmosphere. For a A380 its roughly 35000N of buoyant force. $\endgroup$ – qq jkztd Dec 12 '17 at 21:01

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