Retrotechtacular: The Jet Story

A plane from Britain is met in the US by armed security. The cargo? An experimental engine created by Air Commodore [Frank Whittle], RAF engineer air officer. This engine will be further developed by General Electric under contract to the US government. This is not a Hollywood thriller; it is the story of the jet engine.

The idea of jet power started to get off the ground at the turn of the century. Cornell scholar [Sanford Moss]’ gas turbine thesis led him to work for GE and ultimately for the Army. Soon, aircraft were capable of dropping 2,000 lb. bombs from 15,000 feet to cries of ‘you sank my battleship!’, thus passing [Billy Mitchell]’s famous test.

The World War II-era US Air Force was extremely interested in turbo engines. Beginning in 1941, about 1,000 men were working on a project that only 1/10 were wise to. During this time, American contributions tweaked [Whittle]’s design, improving among other things the impellers and rotor balancing. This was the dawn of radical change in air power.

Six months after the crate arrived and the contracts were signed, GE let ‘er rip in the secret testing chamber. Elsewhere at the Bell Aircraft Corporation, top men had been working concurrently on the Airacomet, which was the first American jet-powered plane ever to take to the skies.

In the name of national defense, GE gave their plans to other manufacturers like Allison to encourage widespread growth. Lockheed’s F-80 Shooting Star, the first operational jet fighter, flew in June 1944 under the power of an Allison J-33 with a remarkable 4,000 pounds of thrust.

GE started a school for future jet engineers and technicians with the primary lesson being the principles of propulsion. The jet engine developed rapidly from this point on.

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You Might Be Cool, But You’re Not Gas Turbine Motorcycle Cool

For the last four and a half years, [Anders] has been working on a motorcycle project. This isn’t just any old Harley covering a garage floor with oil – this is a gas turbine powered bike built to break the land speed record at Bonneville.

The engine inside [Anders]’s bike is a gas turbine – not a jet engine. There’s really not much difference in the design of these engines, except for the fact that a turbine dumps all the energy into a drive shaft, while a true jet dumps all the energy into the front bumper of the car behind this bike. [Anders] built this engine from scratch, documented entirely on a massive 120 page forum thread. Just about everything is machined by him, bolted to a frame designed and fabricated by him, and with any luck, will break the land speed record of 349 km/h (216mph) on the salt flats of Bonneville.

As with all jet and turbine builds, this one must be heard to be believed. There are a few videos of the turbine in action below, including one where the turbine drives the rear wheel.

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3D Printed Cutaway Jet Engine Sounds Great

Thanks to the wonders of 3D printing, you can now have a 3D printed a jet engine of your very own. Unlike jet engines we’ve seen before, this one comes with no chance of the operator getting burned to a crisp. [Gerry] is a self-proclaimed “broken down motor mechanic” from New Zealand. He’s designed a rather awesome jet engine in 3D Software, and printed it on his UP Plus printer. The engine itself is a cutaway model of a high-bypass turbofan engine. While we’re not sure which make and model of jet engine this cutaway represents, we’re still very impressed.

This isn’t just a static display model – the engine will actually spin up with the help of compressed air.  Separate start and run tubes send air to the turbine and main fain respectively. It even has that distinctive turbofan “buzz saw” sound. While this model is relatively safe, [Gerry] does warn to keep the pressure down, or it could come apart. To that end we’d recommend adding a regulator before the quick disconnect.

The Thingiverse project is a bit light on instructions.  However this situation is remedied by [hacksaw], who posted a pictorial and build log up on pp3d. [Hacksaw] did run into a few problems with the build, but nothing a little bit of superglue couldn’t fix. It may have fewer moving parts, but this definitely puts our old Visible V8 Engine kit to shame.

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(Please Don’t) Build a Jet Engine from a Toilet Paper Holder

Turbo charger Jet Engines have long been considered one of the holy grails of backyard engineering. This is with good reason – they’re hard to build, and even harder to run. Many a turbo has met an untimely end from a hot start or oil starvation. [Colin Furze] however, makes it look easy. [Colin] is a proponent of crazy hacks – we’ve featured him before for his land speed record holding baby carriage, and his pulse jet powered tea kettle.

In his latest video set, [Colin] takes a toilet brush holder, a toilet paper roll holder, a few plumbing fittings, and of course a small turbocharger from the scrap yard. Somehow he converts all of this into a working jet engine. The notable thing here is that there is no welding. Some of the joints are held together with nothing more than duct tape.

Calling this a working jet engine is not really an overstatement. As every backyard jet jockey knows, the first goal of DIY jets (aside from not hurting yourself) is self-sustaining. Turbines are spun up with air hoses, vacuums, or leaf blowers. The trick is to turn the fuel on, remove the air source, and have the turbine continue spinning under its own power. Once this happens, your engine is performing the same “Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow” combustion process an F-18 or a 747 uses.

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Hackaday Links: April 11, 2012

This hurts our head

You know you can ‘freeze’ drops of water in mid-air by flashing a LED at the right time, right? Well, according to this video you don’t even need a strobing light; just use the frame rate of the camera. Much cooler if you don’t know how it works, in our humble opinion.

Now do Junkyard Wars!

[James Cameron] and [Mark Burnett] (the guy who created Survivor) are bringing Battlebots back to the Discovery Channel. The new show is called Robogeddon and calls upon the current talent in the fighting robot world. Our prediction? Someone is going to build an amazing piece of art that will be completely destroyed in the first round; a wedge with wheels will take the championship.

A steam engine made out of rocks

[Hansmeevis] just spent 230 hours hand carving a steam engine out of gems. It’s called “Dragon’s Breath” and it’s an amazing piece of work: the cylinder is carved out of quartz, while the flywheel, mount, and base are carved out of jasper, onyx, zugalite, and other semi precious gems. Amazing artistry and it works.

Don’t lose a finger on all that science over there

[Dr. W] is a science teacher in Saint-Louis, France. Next year, his students will be learning about reaction propulsion and impulse conservation. To demonstrate these properties, [Dr. W] hacked up an old vacuum cleaner in to a jet engine and built a Pitot tube to measure the 140 km/h wind speed. Google translation.

Circuit bending a Sega Saturn

Making cool glitched-up graphics from Ataris and Nintendos is old hat, but not much has been done with circuit bending slightly more modern consoles. [big pauper] found his old Sega Saturn in his grandma’s attic and wondered what secrets this forgotten box held. It turns out he can make some pretty cool sounds and even cooler glitched out graphics. The pic above is from Virtua Fighter; done correctly these glitched low-polygon graphics could easily find themselves in a very stylistic indie game.

Human flight at 190 MPH with no steering

It’s been a while since we looked in on a TED talk but this one is fantastic. [Yves Rossy] is interviewed about his jet-powered flight wing at the TED conference. He designed the unit as a form of personal flight. He straps it on, jumps out of a plane, then flies across the sky until he runs out of fuel. There’s no steering mechanism; it’s more of a fixed-wing hang glider plus jet turbine engines. But the pilot can affect the direction of the wing by moving his body.

We’ve embedded the video after the break. The first five minutes are all flight footage (which you’re going to want to watch… we specifically kept the banner image vague so as not to spoil it for you). After that, you’ll enjoy the interview where details about the hardware and its operation are shared.

The wing itself is about 2 meters across, hosting four kerosene-powered turbine engines. There’s about eight minutes worth of fuel on board, which [Yves] monitors with a clock while also keeping an eye on the altimeter. Landings are courtesy of a parachute, with a second on board as a backup. If things go badly–and they have as you’ll hear in the interview–an emergency release frees the pilot from the machine.

Want to build your own? Maybe this will get you started.

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