Pulse Detonation Engine

Pulse Detonation Engine, abbreviated as PDE, is one of the latest and exhilarating fields of pulse jet development. Get to know what a pulse detonation engine is, its concept of working, and applications here.

What is a Pulse Detonation Engine?

A Pulse Detonation Engine is a kind of propulsion system that makes use of detonation waves to ignite the fuel-oxidizer concoction.

First Flight Powered by PDE

Being a project of Innovative Scientific Solutions and Air Force Research Laboratory, the first PDE powered flight took off on Jan 31, 2008 at the Mojave Air and Space Port. This air show demonstrated that a PDE could power an aircraft without posing any structural issues due to 195-200 dB detonation signals. 


Concept of Working of PDE

The concept of working of a PDE is explained briefly in this section. The combustion chamber in this propulsive device is packed up with a reactive gas concoction and a detonation is instigated. This detonation moves throughout the chamber, thus exhausting the product gases. The development of high pressure and the resulting momentum flux from the chamber produce thrust. Quasi-steady thrust levels are accomplished by reiterating this cycle at a higher frequency or by making use of more than one chamber for combustion for functioning out of phase. 

Applications of PDE

 The best aspect of PDE is its versatility and simplicity, due to which, it has a wide range of applications in the field of military mainly for missiles and UAVs. On a broader point of view, a hybrid version of PDE with generator as well as turbine, can also be used to generate electric power

Current Status of PDE

Pulse Detonation engines are still considered to be experimental; it is not yet developed to the state of being used as a practical propulsion device. Presently, the main concentration is on delving into the detonation process in order to improve it.

Future of PDE

Several researchers are still confident that PDE will soon develop into the most lucrative way to propel aircrafts. However, there are many downsides that need to be tackled. Most important of these is the earsplitting noise- a noise that is louder than that of a normal pulse-jet. Secondly, high levels of vibrations also need to be addressed. Apart from these, there are several other minor issues to be handled before thinking of the future ahead.

NASA is one of the key players for the development of PDE. Hopefully, the properties of swift shock-wave inducing ignition and prevention of auto-combustion should make them a tough candidate for flight applications.

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