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Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, working in collaboration with Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Convergent Science Inc., have created a new numerical modeling tool that allows for a better understanding of a powerful engine that could one day propel the next generation of airplanes and rockets.

Rotating detonation engines (RDEs) have received significant attention from the propulsion community in the last decade.

Unlike conventional gas turbine engines, which rely on subsonic constant pressure combustion, RDEs leverage high-intensity, self-sustaining detonation — a supersonic reaction wave coupled with a shock — to rapidly consume the fuel-air mixture, typically in a ring-shaped, cylindrical chamber.

With RDEs, there is an effective pressure gain: The intense and rapid energy release from detonation can be used to generate extremely high thrust from a relatively small combustor.

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