A new international research partnership is working to solve the problem of how to use standard aviation fuels in scramjet engines to power hypersonic flight.
While hypersonic flight using scramjet engine technology has been successfully demonstrated using hydrogen gas as a fuel, current infrastructure uses liquid hydrocarbon aviation fuels to power jet engines.
These standard fuels are cheaper and much easier to handle and store than hydrogen, but they do not react quickly enough for the very high flow speeds experienced in a scramjet combustor.
Supported by $2.48 million in funding from the Federal Government’s Cooperative Research Centre Programme (CRC-P) grant, the new partnership established to tackle this challenge brings together industry, academic and defence leaders.
The consortium – which includes RMIT University, the University of NSW, the Universität der Bundeswehr in Germany and the Defence Science and Technology Group – is led by DefendTex Pty Ltd.
Dr Adrian Pudsey from RMIT’s School of Engineering said the main problem was getting the fuel to mix, burn and generate thrust during the very short time it remains within the combustor.
“Each member of our partnership is bringing different areas of specialist expertise, and by working together we can develop the integrated technologies required to fuel future scramjet engines with more practical aviation fuels,” Pudsey said.
The technology developed by the consortium will have potentially revolutionary applications in high-speed commercial flight, space launch services and defence.
The RMIT group, led by Pudsey, brings together the University’s expertise in hypersonic air-breathing propulsion, advanced additive manufacturing and catalytic science.
They will develop the technology to take liquid “kerosene-like” fuels and crack the long hydrocarbon chains into shorter, gaseous molecules that can more rapidly burn within a scramjet combustor.
Other partners will provide expertise in developing advanced ignition technologies, the design and manufacturing of new high-temperature composite materials, integrating the technologies into a practical engine, testing facilities and commercialisation.
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