A group of scientists in China claims to have built a hypersonic jet engine – called Sodramjet Engine – capable of reaching speeds of Mach 16 (approx. 19,756 km/h). The engine could power an aircraft to reach anywhere in the world within two hours.
In a wind tunnel test, a prototype Sodramjet (Standing oblique detonation ramjet engine) has reached nine times the speed of sound and achieved unprecedented performance in terms of thrust, fuel efficiency, and operational stability.
This type of engine could be used in “reusable trans-atmospheric planes, that will 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,” said the scientists led by Professor Zonglin Jiang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Mechanics.
According to the South China Morning Post, the futuristic engine has a relatively simple design. It consists of three main components without moving parts: a single-stage air inlet, a hydrogen injector, and a combustion chamber. The chamber mouth opens at the top end of the air intake.
Theoretically, the engine could accelerate an aircraft up to 16 times the speed of sound, but this is yet to be tested. The team is confident that their innovation could be one of the first to move commercial flights to hypersonic speeds since the existing hypersonic flight engines, called scramjets, are too weak, too greedy, and too unstable.
“70 years’ exploration on hypersonic propulsion indicates that the revolutionary concept is really in need of hypersonic air-breathing engine development. The Sodramjet engine concept can be a very promising choice,” their article stated.