A group of British scientists have created a new engine for aircraft described as “the biggest breakthrough in propulsion since the jet engine.” The new aircraft propulsion unit created by scientists from a company called Reaction Engines.
The new engine is designed to cool air entering the engine from 1000°C to -150°C in 1/100th of a second without creating issues with ice. The breakthrough promises to allow jet engines to run safely at higher power levels than currently possible without overheating. The designers of the engine believe that it could allow an aircraft to reach speeds of more than 2000 mph. That speed will allow passengers to travel from England to Australia in only four hours.
The engine is called the Sabre and integrating the technology into existing passenger aircraft requires a redesign of the entire engine. The researchers believe that the engine would likely only be used in roughly 10% of all flights. One of the more interesting applications for the engine comes in space flight capability. Designers believe that this engine would allow aircraft to fly directly into orbit and back to earth in one stage.
The technology used in the engine involves a cooling system using an array of thin pipes in a “swirl pattern” that are filled with condensed helium. The designers hope to build an aircraft called Skylon that would be 84 m long and have the ability to take off and land like a normal jet taking in oxygen from the air at low altitudes before switching to rocket mode and using its own internal fuel supply to reach high speeds.