Jun 30, 2022

Could We Be Close To A Jet Engine That Can Cross The World In Just A Few Hours?

Most physicists have accepted that actual time travel is never going to happen, but for most travelers, being able to get across the globe in a couple of hours is honestly almost as good.

And while this engine doesn’t technically exist outside of some brilliant minds (yet), a group of engineers truly thinks it could soon be possible – because these Chinese researchers are working on developing a new generation of jet engines that can handle speeds up to Mach 16.

That’s 19,000 kph (11806 mph), and it’s been tested and found stable, according to this study.

They’re calling it the standing oblique detonation ramjet, a further development of of the ramjet, which was developed by Hungarian Albert Fono to increase the range of artillery pieces.

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Image Credit: Popular Mechanics

The biggest difference between a normal jet engine and a ramjet engine is that instead of using fan blades to compress the air in the front before sending it for combustion, the ramjets’ rapid advance pushes the air inside the engine.

The technology being realized in China is based on American research completed by Richard Morrison, who had the idea for a “soramjet” back in the 1970s. Its technology is based on the shock wave produced at supersonic speeds containing enough energy to constantly turn on the engine, then be able to keep speeds above Mach 15.

 Could We Be Close To A Jet Engine That Can Cross The World In Just A Few Hours?

Image Credit: Science ABC

The technology, while considered promising, was abandoned within a decade.

The lead researcher in China, Jiang Zonglin, took the original idea a different route, and that’s what let to this promising concept.

“Jiang and colleagues said they were fed up with scramjets’ fatal design weakness. The scramjet could barely generate any thrust at the speed of Mach 7 or beyond.

Not to mention the fuel consumption was so high that no commercial aviation company could possibly foot the bill, and the pilots and passengers could suffer heart attacks if they were required to restart the engine during a flight.

This new design uses the sonic boom to add combustion, not blow it out, effectively turning the shock wave from an enemy into an ally as it helps sustain and stabilize combustion at hypersonic speed.

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Image Credit: Science Direct

A prototype undertook a test flight inside a hypersonic wind tunnel, and emerged with suggestions of unprecedented performance in the areas of thrust, fuel efficiency, and operational stability.

The craft was stable at supersonic speeds and the higher the speed, the more efficient the engine – which means Morrison was right in predicting that shock waves inside an acoustic engine are able to keep the combustion going.

The authors released a statement, including this:

“With reusable trans-atmospheric planes, we can take off horizontally from an airport runway, accelerate into orbit around the Earth, then re-enter into the atmosphere, and finally land at an airport.

In this way, space access will become reliable, routine and affordable.”

A concept and a prototype are just that, though, and there’s a long road ahead before passengers will be able to board this sort of craft for a quick flight – most notably that a whole world of complications exist outside a synthetic wind tunnel.

In an era where technology is critical to both travel and exploration, though, this project seems to have just moved to the front of the class.

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