Vision: Engine-ering Redesign Of Propulsion Tech

As you may know by now, we are telling a story one step at a time of a global energy technology breakthrough that will change the entire world. There will be many applications for this new tech and because we have a very big interest in aviation, we thought this would be a perfect time to give a simple illustration of what we can all expect soon.

Our focus for this article will be strictly limited to a brief glimpse of how aircraft propulsion tech (engines) might be replaced with what’s coming next and allow existing aircraft to continue in service for a long time. As a pilot, the author here is very much interested in finding solutions for exactly such situations.

Jet Engine Extinction & Replacement

Short and simple – the jet engines that we rely on so much today, are all going away. In their place, we will have all new propulsion technology that will no longer use petroleum based fuel. This is a topic we have covered several times here in various forms. If you’re new to our website, take a look back at previous articles such as these for a reference point:

But just because our energy and propulsion tech will completely change does not necessarily mean we will no longer have the same aircraft designs as we have today. What this means is the that the “old” technology we’ve used to power our existing aircraft will be replaced with something completely different.

And that brings up MANY possible questions about how a re-engineering of all our currently existing aircraft will be required in order to accommodate a new type of “engine” so they can all continue flying and with greatly improved performance.

With that in mind, let’s do a little mental rough sketching using an easy starting point.

Cirrus Vision Jet Modification Example

For the sake of simplicity, let’s look at a small private jet, the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet and get some initial ideas for how a new type of “engine” could be used to replace the current jet fuel burning power plants and dramatically improve the operating characteristics.

Image source: Business Airport Int’l

Since we’re talking new propulsion tech, the starting point of our discussion will focus on the fuel tanks. Why? Because this new technology is centered on a new form of energy that does not consist of burning liquid fuel. Therefore, there won’t be any need for heavy, large onboard fuel storage as we have now.

Back to our example… The Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet has only one engine. Here are the specs for it, taken straight from the company website:

  • Manufacturer = Williams International
  • Model = FJ33-5A
  • Thrust (Approx.) = 1,846 lbs
  • Max useable fuel = 2,000 lbs

As with all aircraft (large or small), the maximum distance the jet can fly is highly influenced by the number of passengers and baggage carried. In the case of the Vision Jet, the more of those you take, the less fuel you can carry (based on the maximum allowable weight due to various structural factors). So, the less fuel you carry, the less distance you can cover on your trip.

Also, cruising speed and altitude is directly related to fuel burn. Therefore, higher speed and lower altitude means greater fuel burn per hour. So, what starts out as a 1,200 nm trip half way across the US, rapidly dwindles to less than 600 nm with a full load of passengers and baggage, especially at higher cruising speeds.

To see how all this works out, take a look at the chart below taken from the Cirrus Aircraft Vision Jet Brochure. When payload is near the 1,400 lb max, the range is just below 600 nm. But when payload decreases to only 500 lbs, the light aircraft can fly up to its max range around 1,200 nm.

This is a good time to note that the maximum allowable weight for this aircraft is 6000 lbs and therefore, 2000 lb fuel storage is 1/3 the entire total weight. That’s a lot! Therefore, as we’re trying to make the point, when you have a propulsion device that does not require heavy liquid fuel, everything changes dramatically.

So now let’s relook all this hypothetically by retrofitting the Vision Jet with a propulsion device that produces the same thrust but with near-zero fuel.

Because the max fuel load (based on tank capacity) is 2,000 lbs, when you zero all that out, you eliminate the restrictions imposed by that extra weight. If all other conditions remained equal, you just extended the range of this aircraft by many hundreds of miles.

For the sake of limiting the scope of this discussion, we won’t speculate on whether the thrust produced by the new device will equal or exceed that of the former jet engine. That leads to an entirely new set of considerations including weight of the new device in comparison to the jet engine and it’s relative thrust to weight.

Range Unlimited

This is where you’re probably wondering about our claim of no large fuel storage required, right? Ok… for starters, there are devices already proven that basically use zero or very little fuel. We’ve already stated that here (see article list above). Some of these devices could make an aircraft almost never need to refuel.

Look at the example of our Vision Jet. What began as a 1,200 nm max distance, now becomes a small privately owned $2M jet that can hypothetically travel nonstop from New York to Australia. (You might need to stop for a bathroom since jet this doesn’t have one!)

What we’re really saying here is – start planning now for everything to change dramatically. And just this little example here is enough to get you going in that direction. We think it’s very possible that incorporatIng new propulsion tech might be as easy as creating replacement mods that simply swap the old with the new. Not just on aircraft but with cars as well.

So this article is really just a simple brainstorming exercise. Because the exact specifics of the new devices are not fully available as of today, we are beginning with the most basic assumptions which can be altered later as needed. And that’s fine. Once you have a basic starting idea, you can add or modify it from there. The important thing is to just get that process going now.

Preliminary Questions

Following our mental rough sketching above here, there are a few related questions that can be considered such as…

  • Will the new propulsion tech replace a jet engine without increasing the space needed to house it? If so, then it’s as easy as swapping an entire nacelle with a redesigned version or simply replacing all the internal components in the previous one.
  • Does the new device still make use of spinning rotors? This would influence the overall design regarding the need for an air intake.
  • How does the manner in which the new device produces thrust affect the generation of power for the aircraft’s electrical systems?
  • What is the weight of the new device and how will this effect the weight and balance of the aircraft? Will the positioning of the new device need to be moved forward or aft of the previous jet engines?
  • Will the new device produce heat? Some propulsion devices may have increased heat output while others may greatly reduce it. All this will influence the nacelle design.

Blue Cube Rocket is continuing the saga of a long awaited energy tech breakthrough. We recently discovered a connection with the Vision Jet and decided to use it as an example to test our theory. We expect to do more of this as the occasion arises.


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Published by Chris Michals

Blogger / Dreamer / Pilot / Energy & Space Tech / USAF ret

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