The piston engine has been the king of the transportation industry for well over a century now. It has been manufactured so much that it has become a sort of general-purpose machine that can be used to do quite a bit more than merely move people and cargo from one point to another. Running generators, hydraulic systems, pumps, and heavy machinery are but a few examples of that.
Scale production of this technology also had the effect of driving prices for these engines down, and now virtually everyone in the developed world has cheap and easy access to them. In the transportation world, at least, it looks like its reign might finally be coming to a slow, drawn-out conclusion as electric cars capture more and more market share.
Electric motors aren’t the first technology to try to topple the piston engine from its apex position on top of our modern transportation industry, though. In the 1960s another technology, the gas turbine engine, tried to replace it — and failed.
[Richard Browning] wants to fly like Daedalus. To us, it looks a bit more like Iron Man. [Browning] is working on project Daedalus, a flight suit powered by six jet engines. These turbines are exactly the type one would find on large, fast, and expensive R/C planes. Some of this is documented on his YouTube channel, Gravity Industries, though RedBull has also gotten involved and have a video of their own that you can check out after the break.
The project started last year in [Browning’s] garage. He strapped a jet to an old washing machine to test its thrust. The jet nearly flipped the machine over, so he knew he would have enough power to fly. The suit started with a turbine strapped to each arm. Then it became two on each arm. This was enough for moonlike hops, but not enough for actual flight. Strapping an engine to each leg worked but was rather hard to control. The current configuration features two turbines per arm, and two on a backpack.
The whole setup is quite similar to [Frank Zapata]’s Flyboard Air, with one key difference – [Browning] is supporting two thirds of his weight with his hands. The effect is similar to supporting oneself on gymnastic rings, which is part of his extreme physical training regimen.
It started with one of those odd links that pop up from time to time on Hacker News: “The strange and now sadly abandoned Soviet Jet Train from the 1970s“. Pictures of a dilapidated railcar with a pair of jet engines in nacelles above its cab, forlorn in a rusty siding in the Russian winter. Reading a little further on the subject revealed a forgotten facet of the rivalry between Russians and Americans at the height of the Cold War, and became an engrossing trawl through Wikipedia entries, rail enthusiast websites, and YouTube videos.
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.
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.