Hypersonic Aircraft Image
A conceptual hypersonic aircraft, powered by an oblique detonation wave engine, is pictured. (Background image credit: NASA; Aircraft and composite image credit: Daniel Rosato, UCF)

A new propulsion system could allow for flight speeds of Mach 6 to 17 (more than 4,600 to 13,000 miles per hour). Researchers discovered a way to stabilize the detonation needed for hypersonic propulsion by creating a special hypersonic reaction chamber for jet engines.

The technology harnesses the power of an oblique detonation wave, which was formed by using an angled ramp inside the reaction chamber to create a detonation-inducing shock wave for propulsion.

The technology improves jet propulsion engine efficiency so that more power is generated while using less fuel than traditional propulsion engines, thus lightening the fuel load and reducing costs and emissions. In addition to faster air travel, the technology could also be used in rockets for space missions to make them lighter by requiring less fuel, travel farther, and burn more cleanly.