Header Ads

20 kilometers per second: plasma engines are one step closer to commercial aviation

Plasma engines have long since come out of science fiction pages to get into the labs . The problem is that they have not been able to get out of there for decades. Now we are witnessing a new advance that promises to finally put them in the airplanes.
20 kilometers per second: plasma engines are one step closer to commercial aviation

And, although it is still early, it looks very good .

The fascinating world of reactors

Traditional reactors are fascinating machines . They use a combination of air and fuel: when the combustion takes place, the hot air expands and exits from the rear pushing the engine forward.
In the background, the idea that supports its operation is very simple, but (as you can see in the video) we have achieved incredible things with them. What happens is that, simply, the plasma engines, are better .
Snip 20170518112037
An engine of this type uses the energy to generate electromagnetic fields and convert the gas into plasma ( the fourth state of matter ). And in this way, plasma through, they use the engine to propel the aircraft.
Sounds good, but little else. The idea has been there for decades, but we have not been able to create models that would allow us to use them in the atmosphere. In recent years, if we have managed to talk about anything, it has been plasma engines in space exploration.

What if we got them on a plane?

Snip 20170518111100
But that may be about to change, as they have published in the Journal of Physics Conference Series , a team from the Technical University of Berlin, led by Berkant Göksel has obtained a plasma engine that can work in the atmosphere .
In fact, as Göksel himself explained to New Scientist , "we are the first to produce fast and powerful plasma jets at ground level." Jets that can reach a speed of up to 20 kilometers per second .
The idea is to develop engines that can operate at ground level, yes; But above all, more than 30 kilometers above where normal reactors do not work. That is, these plasma engines could connect normal aircraft and aerospace transports .

How does it work?

The mechanism uses a very rapid succession of very short (nanoseconds) electrical discharges. This is the idea of the combustion engines of pulsed detonation but brought to the world of plasma. The best thing about this technique is that it reduces the necessary resources in a very significant way .
Snip 20170518110643
Snip 20170518110656
Snip 20170518110712
Snip 20170518110727
However, there are still several problems to be solved. Some, like the size of the reactors (which are very small), have "easy" solution. The team estimates that with a few hundred mini-drivers of this type a small aircraft could be moved without problem. Although, they acknowledge, it is possible that they forced us to rethink the design of the current aircraft.
The main problem of this type of engines, without a doubt, is the battery. The amounts of energy needed to start them up are huge . So much so that the Göksel team expects a breakthrough in fusion reactors to make them smaller and more efficient; And thus be able to use them inside an aircraft.
In short, we are still far from seeing planes driven by plasma reactors: but not as far as we could believe. It's more, much closer than it was just a few months ago. This kind of progress allows us to dream of an entire aerospace revolution that integrates air and space and that, forever, change the way we fly.

No comments