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Friday 23 September 2022

Can Coal Propel Hypersonic Flights? Chinese Scientists Claim ‘Big Discovery’ In Cutting Costs For Mach 5+ Travel

  Can Coal Propel Hypersonic Flights? Chinese Scientists Claim ‘Big Discovery’ In Cutting Costs For Mach 5+ Travel

Chinese researchers recently claimed that by using an air-breathing engine that burns a mixture of ethylene and coal powder, they could significantly reduce the cost of commercial hypersonic flight.

The researchers reported their findings in a paper that appeared in the peer-reviewed Acta Armamentarii journal’s September 15 issue. In one ground test, an experimental device produced shocks traveling at more than 2km per second, or six times the speed of sound, by using the inexpensive mixture.

“Coal powder’s high energy density, safety, and low price give it a unique advantage when used as an engine fuel,” said the team led by Professor Weng Chunsheng at Nanjing University of Science and Technology’s national key laboratory of transient physics.

One of the most common byproducts of oil refineries is ethylene, and coal currently makes up the largest portion of China’s electricity generation. However, it is pertinent to note that China earlier went through an energy crisis due to a shortage of coal, a situation which has now been reversed.

The report, as aspirational as it is, does not mention China’s decision to cut the consumption of coal to reduce emissions. Chinese President Xi Jinping promised last year to strictly control coal use and start reducing it in 2026 to peak the country’s emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) before 2030.

That being said, experts have emphasized that the global economic slowdown might not allow China to phase out coal as pledged by the President. Against that backdrop, the claims made by Chinese scientists become significant.

Beijing-based scientists had earlier claimed that China was developing a hypersonic aircraft capable of transporting passengers anywhere in the world in less than an hour, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.

Another set of claims said that the aircraft would cut travel time from Shanghai to New York by 12 hours.

So, the vehicle can either go long or use smaller fuel storage. Use of this fuel mix can be aimed at reducing costs as well as substituting limited resources with a more ubiquitous fuel.”

The idea of using coal to power hypersonic flight was first put up roughly ten years ago by Russian Academy of Sciences researchers, who also demonstrated that shocks could be produced using a coal powder and hydrogen mixture.

US research teams conducted additional research and developed a few physical models to describe the complex system. Researchers in several nations, including China, are looking at alternative energy sources to fuel future hypersonic travel business.

Besides China, the US is also developing hypersonic aircraft. Hypersonic planes have been on the priority list of the US military for quite a while now. Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest fighter aircraft ever built.


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