Roller Skating, Wile E. Coyote-Style

They say you learn something new every day, and they’re usually right about that. Today’s tidbit is that just anybody (including [Ian Charnas]) can exchange money for jet engines, no questions asked. Scary, huh? So once [Ian] secured the cutest little engine, he took a poll regarding possible uses for it. Jetpack rollerskating won, that’s obvious enough. So let’s get into those details.

[Ian] procured this particular jet engine from an outfit called CRX Turbines. It tops out at 98,000 RPM and 30 kg (66 lbs.) of thrust. Essentially, he is pulsing the engine’s ECU with PWM from an Adafruit RadioFruit and controlling it with a pair of stripped drills that are just being used for their convenient grips and switches. One is wired as a dead man’s switch, and the other controls the throttle signal.

In order to run the thing and test the thrust a bit before strapping it on his back, [Ian] went about this the smart way and welded together a sliding stand. And he didn’t use just any old Jansport backpack, he welded together a frame and roll cage for the engine and attached it to a full-body harness. There’s also a heat shield to keep his backside from catching fire.

At first he tested the jet pack with shoes instead of skates to make sure it was going to behave as he predicted. Then it was time to bust out the roller skates. [Ian] achieved a top speed of 17 MPH before losing his balance, but he knew it could go faster, so he invited some roller derby skaters to try it out. One of them went over 30 MPH! Be sure to check it out in the build and demo video after the break.

If you’re at all familiar with [Ian]’s videos, you know that he usually raffles off the build and gives the money to charity. Well, not this time! That wouldn’t be prudent. Instead, he’s going to choose the best suggestion for what to attach it to, build it, and raffle that off. Hopefully, he stays away from airports with that thing on his back.

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Hackaday Links: April 4, 2021

Can I just say that doing a links roundup article in a week that includes April Fool’s Day isn’t a fun job? Because it’s not. I mean, how can you take something like reports of X-rays flowing from Uranus seriously when they release the report on such a day? It sure looks like a legitimate story, though, and a pretty interesting one. Planets emitting X-rays isn’t really a new thing; we’ve known that Jupiter and Saturn are both powerful X-ray sources for decades. Even though Uranus is the odd child of our solar system, finding evidence for X-ray emissions buried in data captured by the Chandra observatory in 2007 was unexpected. Astronomers think the X-rays might be coming from Uranus’ rings, or they might be reflections of X-rays streaming out from the sun. Or, it might be the weird alignment of the gas giant’s magnetic field causing powerful aurorae that glow in the X-ray part of the spectrum. Whatever it is, it’s weird and beautiful, which all things considered isn’t a bad way for things to be.

Another potential jest-based story popped up this week about the seemingly impossible “EmDrive”. It seems that when you appear to be breaking the laws of physics, you’re probably doing it wrong, and careful lab tests showed that fuel-free propulsion isn’t here yet. One would think it was self-obvious that filling a closed asymmetrical chamber with microwaves would produce absolutely no thrust, but EmDrive proponents have reported small but measurable amounts of thrust from the improbable engine for years. A team at TU Dresden found otherwise, though. Even though they were able to measure a displacement of the engine, it appears to be from the test stand heating up and warping as the RF energy flowed into the drive chamber. By changing the way the engine was supported, they were able to cancel out the dimensional changes that were making it look like the EmDrive was actually working.

Want to use surface-mount parts, but don’t want to bother spinning up an SMD board? Not a problem, at least if you follow the lead of David Buchanan and perform no-surface surface-mount prototyping. We stumbled upon this on Twitter and thought it looked cool — it’s got a little bit of a circuit sculpture feeling, and we like the old-school look of plain 0.1″ perfboard. David reports that the flying leads are just enameled magnet wire; having done our share of scraping and cleaning magnet wire prior to soldering, we figured that part of the build must have been painful. We pinged David and asked if he had any shortcuts for prepping magnet wire, but alas, he says he just used a hot blob of solder and a little patience while the enamel cooked off. We still really like the style of this build, and we applaud the effort.

Speaking of stumbling across things, that’s one of the great joys of this job — falling down algorithmically generated rabbit holes as we troll about for the freshest hacks. One such serendipitous was this YouTube channel documenting a really nice jet engine build. We’ve seen plenty of jet engines before, but very few with afterburners like this one has. There’s also something deeply satisfying about the variable-throat nozzle that Praendy built for the engine — it’s a level of complexity that you don’t often see in hobbyist jet engines, and yet the mechanism is very simple and understandable.

The other rabbit hole we discovered was after reporting on this cool TIG tungsten grinding tool. That took us into The Metalist’s back catalog, where we found a lot of interesting stuff. But the real treat was this automatic tube polisher (video), which we have to say kept us guessing up to the very end. If you’ve got 12 minutes and you enjoy metalworking builds at all, watch it and see if you’re not surprised by the cleverness of this tool.

And finally, we had heard of the travails of Anatoli Bugorski before, but never in the detail presented in this disturbing video. (Embedded below.)

Who is Anatoli Bugorski, you ask? He is a Russian particle physicist who, while working in an accelerator lab in 1978, managed to get his head directly in the path of a 76 GeV proton beam. Despite getting a huge dose of radiation, Bugorski not only survived the accident but managed to finish his Ph.D. and went on to a long career in nuclear physics. He also got married and had a son. He was certainly injured — facial paralysis and partial deafness, mainly — but did not suffer anything like the gruesome fates of the Chernobyl firefighters or others receiving massive radiation doses. The video goes into some detail about how the accident happened — two light bulbs are better than one, it turns out. We enjoyed the video, but couldn’t stop thinking that Bugorski was the Russian atomic-age equivalent of Phineas Gage.

Prototyping A Turbojet Engine In The Home Shop

The development of the turbojet engine was a gamechanger in aviation, as no longer would aircraft designers have to struggle with ever larger and more complex piston engines, nor would propellers keep planes stuck below the speed of sound. However, the turbojet is an exacting device, demanding the utmost of materials in order to work successfully. [Integza] discovered just this in his quest to build one at home.

Unlike most home jet engine builds, this one doesn’t use a turbocharger or go with a simpler pulse jet design – though [Integza] has built those, too. This is a proper radial-flow turbojet design. The build uses a 3D-printed compressor, which is possible as it doesn’t have to deal with much heat. However, for the turbine, [Integza] realised that plastic wouldn’t cut it. After experiments with ceramic resins failed too, a 3D printed jig was instead built to allow sheet metal to easily be crafted into a workable turbine. Other internal components were made out of concrete for heat resistance, and a combustion chamber welded up out of steel.

The engine did run after several attempts, albeit for just ten seconds before components started to melt. While the engine is a long way off being flight ready, it goes to show just how hard it is to build even a bench-running turbojet. Even major world powers have struggled with this problem over the years. Video after the break.

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Jet Powered Go Kart Built With RC Gear

Turbine cars never quite came to be, despite many experiments in the 20th century. Despite their high power output for their size, they’re just not well suited to land transport applications; even the M1A1 tank has been much maligned for its turbine power plant. That didn’t stop [Warped Perception] for throwing a jet on the back of a kart though, and it looks like a whole lot of fun. (Video, embedded below.)

The build starts with a garden variety gokart, with the piston engine and all associated running gear stripped off in haste. The RC-sized turbo jet is then mounted on an elegant aluminium bracket, neatly welded on to the back of the car. It’s hooked up with its electronic controller, with throttle controlled by an RC transmitter. It’s not ideal trying to steer one-handed with another on the stick, but these are the sacrifices made when parts don’t arrive in time.

Early testing revealed issues with air ingestion into the fuel line over bumps, but overall performance was impressive. Future plans involve a top speed run which we can’t wait to see. Of course, if it’s not outrageous enough for your taste, consider [Colin Furze’s] pulsejet build.

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Homebrew Pulsejet Uses Carbon Fiber To Great Effect

Jet engines are undeniably awesome, but their inherent complexity prevents many from experimenting with the technology at home. Perhaps the most accessible design is the pulsejet; in valveless form, it can be built relatively easily without needing a lot of precision spinning parts. [Integza] decided to try building his own, facing many hurdles along the way. (Video, embedded below.)

Despite eschewing turbines and compressors, and consisting of just an intake, exhaust and a combustion chamber, the pulsejet still presents many challenges to the home gamer. Primary concerns are sustaining combustion without the jet flaming out, and building the jet out of suitable materials that won’t simply melt into a gooey puddle on the floor.

[Integza]’s design process began with many 3D-printed attempts. While the geometry was on point, none of these designs could run for more than a few seconds without melting and falling apart. Determined to avoid the typical welded-steel approach, [Integza] instead resolved to go left-of-field with carbon fibre mat combined with high-temperature sealant. With the help of a 3D-printed mold, he was able to produce a working engine that could stand up to the high temperatures and produce that glorious pulsejet sound.

It’s come a long way from [Integza]’s earlier experiments, and we look forward to seeing where it goes next – whether that be on a plane or perhaps even a go-kart. Video after the break.

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80 Years From Invention, China Is Struggling With Jet Engines

The jet engine has a long and storied history. Its development occurred spontaneously amongst several unrelated groups in the early 20th Century. Frank Whittle submitted a UK patent on a design in 1930, while Hans von Ohain begun exploring the field in Germany in 1935. Leading on from Ohain’s work, the first flight of a jet-powered aircraft was in August 27, 1939. By the end of World War II, a smattering of military jet aircraft had entered service, and the propeller was on the way out as far as high performance aviation is concerned.

With the invention of the jet engine so far in the past, one could be forgiven for thinking that the technology has long been mastered around the world. However, recent reports show that’s not the case. China is a great example, facing issues with the development of jet engines for their indigenous military aircraft.

Closely Guarded Secrets

China’s development of ballpoint pen tips was a national news story in 2017. Source: Xinhua

In the age of the Internet and open source, technology moves swiftly around the world. In the consumer space, companies are eager to sell their product to as many customers as possible, shipping their latest wares worldwide lest their competitors do so first. In the case of products more reliant on infrastructure, we see a slower roll out. Hydrogen-powered cars are only available in select regions, while services like media streaming can take time to solve legal issues around rights to exhibit material in different countries. In these cases, we often see a lag of 5-10 years at most, assuming the technology survives to maturity.

In most cases, if there’s a market for a technology, there’ll be someone standing in line to sell it. However, some can prove more tricky than others. The ballpoint pen is one example of a technology that most of us would consider quaint to the point of mediocrity. However, despite producing over 80% of the world’s ballpoint pens, China was unable to produce the entire pen domestically. Chinese manufactured ballpoint tips performed poorly, with scratchy writing as the result. This attracted the notice of government officials, which resulted in a push to improve the indigenous ballpoint technology. In 2017, they succeeded, producing high-quality ballpoint pens for the first time.

The secrets to creating just the right steel, and manipulating it into a smooth rolling ball just right for writing, were complex and manifold. The Japanese, German, and Swiss companies that supplied China with ballpoint tips made a healthy profit from the trade. Sharing the inside knowledge on how it’s done would only seek to destroy their own business. Thus, China had to go it alone, taking 5 years to solve the problem.

There was little drive for pen manufacturers to improve their product; the Chinese consumer was more focused on price than quality. Once the government made it a point of national pride, things shifted. For jet engines, however, it’s somewhat of a different story.

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3D Printed Pulsejet Uses Tesla Valve

For most people, a jet is a jet. But there are several different kinds of jet engines, depending on how they operate. You frequently hear about ramjets, scramjets, and even turbojets. But there is another kind — a very old kind — called a pulsejet. [Integza] shows how he made one using 3D printed parts and also has a lot of entertaining background information. You can see the video below. (Beware, there is a very little bit of off-color language and humor in the video, so you might not want to watch this one at work.)

They are not ideal from a performance standpoint, but they are easy to make. How easy? A form of pulsejet was accidentally discovered by a young Swiss boy playing with alcohol in the early 1900s. Because of their simplicity, they’ve been built by lots of different people, including rocket pioneer Robert Goddard, who mounted one to a bicycle.

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