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Chinese jet engine capable of Mach-16 Chinese jet engine capable of Mach-16
Chinese scientists have developed a jet engine capable of reaching Mach-16. An aircraft powered by such a powerful thrust could fly from Beijing to... Chinese jet engine capable of Mach-16

Chinese scientists have developed a jet engine capable of reaching Mach-16. An aircraft powered by such a powerful thrust could fly from Beijing to London in just two hours.

Named the ‘sodramjet’, the prototype testing took place at a wind tunnel in Beijing. The engine displayed excellent fuel efficiency, thrust and operational stability, according to the test findings published in the Chinese Journal of Aeronautics in late November.

Lead scientist, Professor Jongling Jiang and his team of researchers say an aircraft powered by a standing oblique detonation ramjet engine (sodramjet) could be used in ‘re-usable trans-atmospheric planes’.

The engine make-up is relatively simple, says Jiang. The sodramjet’s design consists of three fixed components: a single-stage air inlet; a combustion chamber; and a hydrogen fuel injector. An unnamed scientist, familiar with the project, said the simplistic design of the engine is ‘easily mistaken for a sliding board’.

The concept of a standing oblique detonation ramjet engine is not new. Engineer Richard Morrison came up with the idea more than 40 years ago, presenting his published concept to NASA in 1980. NASA and the US Defence Force shelved the idea and pursued other thrust technologies, notably ‘scramjet’ engines.

Jiang and company, frustrated with the scramjet’s many flaws, most notably its incredible fuel inefficiency and its inability to go faster than around Mach-7, picked up on Morrison’s early work and developed it further.

The final product outperformed scramjet engines in every measurable area, according to the scientists involved. The new jet engine uses the immense shock wave created by the engine to stabilise and sustain combustion, allowing it to perform at speeds surpassing any scramjet engine.

The fastest speed achieved was by NASA’s X43-A scramjet, clocking a record Mach-9.123. In theory, a craft kitted with a sodramjet engine could reach Mach-16. At present the only wind tunnel capable of testing speeds this high is still under construction.

Jiang and his team believe the sodramjet is a significant step towards commercial trans-atmospheric hypersonic flight – five times the speed of sound or roughly six times the speed of a Boeing 737.

Trans-atmospheric planes essentially take off horizontally, accelerate until the craft, moving through dry air at nearly 20 000km/h, has reached low orbit, and re-enter the atmosphere to land at the desired airport.

A Shanghai-based researcher told South China Morning Post the experimentation was probably conducted ‘a while ago’. The unnamed researcher with a background in hypersonic aerodynamics said China’s hypersonic aviation plans are incredibly secretive and published materials in academic journals would have been carefully vetted.

Jiang and his colleagues believe the sodramjet is a moment in aviation comparable to the Wright Brothers in 1903 and Concorde’s first supersonic passenger flight in 1969.

https://interestingengineering.com/china-tests-hypersonic-jet-engine-that-can-go-16-times-the-speed-of-sound

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