Revamping Rotating Detonation Engines

Rotating detonation engines go back to the 1950s. The idea was to confine a spinning detonation wave in a ring over a circle of fuel injectors. It would be more efficient than the combustors used in rockets. Arthur Nicholls, a professor emeritus of aerospace engineering, was one of the engine’s early pioneers.

Professor Mirko Gamba studies combustion, specifically combustion at high speeds, such as occurs in supersonic vehicles. Flames and shock waves are his home turf. Gamba’s group will run experiments to help answer questions about how to optimize the propagation of the detonation wave. What affects its structure? What is the best way to mix the air and fuel – can the detonation wave help with this? In this video, Professor Gamba speaks with Art Nicholls about why he began researching rotating detonation engines, how far he progressed with that research, and why he ultimately ceased his study of the technology.
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