China’s scramjet engine (supersonic combustion ramjet engine) has the longest operating time in the world in testing the latest hypersonic technology.

DF-17 supersonic missile of China
DF-17 supersonic missile of China

According to the South China Morning Post, China has just tested the scramjet propulsion engine with a maximum operating time of up to 10 minutes, the longest operating time of this engine in the world.

In the ground test in Beijing, experts at the Chinese Institute of Mechanics sent super-hot, high-speed air into the engine and set it on fire for a maximum of 600 seconds.

Since 2013, the scramjet engine of the US Air Force X-51A WaveRider has held a record of 210 seconds, helping it reach Mach 5. In 2016, India tested a missile that reached Mach 6 with the engine operating in just 5 seconds.

According to the article published on the Chinese Institute of Mechanics website, the new breakthrough was based on “the world’s first investigation of changes in the state of hydrogen carbon fuel and the stability of supersonic combustion”.

The scamjet engine is capable of reaching speeds of up to 5 times the speed of sound or more. Traditional jet engines can melt at high speeds. The hypersonic airflow can raise engine temperatures to more than 4,000 degrees Celsius, and if too much heat is accumulated, the engine may explode.

Dr. Fan Xuejun and colleagues solved this problem by directing fuel flow to the hottest components of the combustion chamber. With precise control, fuel can absorb and dissipate heat.

The temperature will then turn the fuel into a gas composed of carbon and hydrogen molecules, to contact oxygen in compressed air and ignite to create momentum.

Huang Yue, associate professor of aerospace engineering at Xiamen University, said that 10 minutes for a single operation of a scramjet engine is an impressive achievement as many attempts only work within seconds.

The article does not mention when the test was conducted and whether it was actually launched. Meanwhile, this engine has registered in China’s secret hypersonic weapons program.

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