Science presenter Rani Price meets two scientists involved in developing a new type of jet engine that could power commercial space flights. The engine is being developed by British scientists and engineers. It is a hybrid between a conventional jet engine, and a rocket system powered by liquid oxygen.
The system will be reusable, much like an aeroplane, with no need to jettison expensive fuel tanks during the launch. However, the compression of air at Mach 5 causes superheating, so the engine will need to be cooled using a cryogenic heat exchanger. This engine technology could also dramatically cut the duration of long haul flights between countries and continents. The two engineers also describe their science education and career motivation.
Students could research the technology of a jet engine generally and the engine featured in particular. They can then go on to look at the materials used in relation to heat resistance. The cooling system could also be investigated and compared to other heat exchange systems, such as in a fridge, or central heating systems. A practical exercise could follow in which groups design their own low-tech heat exchange.