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Application of Steady and Unsteady Detonation Waves to Propulsion


Wintenberger, Eric (2004) Application of Steady and Unsteady Detonation Waves to Propulsion. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/2NXT-SE76.


The present work investigates the applications of steady and unsteady detonation waves to air-breathing propulsion systems. The efficiency of ideal detonation-based propulsion systems is first investigated based on thermodynamics. We reformulate the Hugoniot analysis of steady combustion waves for a fixed initial stagnation state to conclude that steady detonation waves are less desirable than deflagrations for propulsion. However, a thermostatic approach shows that unsteady detonations have the potential for generating more work than constant-pressure combustion. The subsequent work focuses on specific engine concepts. A flow path analysis of ideal steady detonation engines is conducted and shows that their performance is limited and poorer than that of the ideal ramjet or turbojet engines. The limitations associated with the use of a steady detonation in the combustor are drastic and such engines do not appear to be practical. This leads us to focus on unsteady detonation engines, i.e., pulse detonation engnes. The unsteady generation of thrust in the simple configuration of a detonation tube is first analyzed using gas dynamics. We develop one of the first models to quickly and reliably estimate the impulse of a pulse detonation tube. The impulse is found to scale directly with the mass of explosive in the tube and the square root of the energy release per unit mass of the mixture. Impulse values for typical fuel-oxidizer mixtures are found to be on the order of 160 s for hydrocarbon-oxygen mixtures and 120 s for fuel-air mixtures at standard conditions. These results are then used as a basis to develop the first complete system-level performance analysis of a supersonic, single-tube, air-breathing pulse detonation engine. We show that hydrogen- and JP10-fueled pulse detonation engines generate thrust up to a Mach number of 4, and that the specific impulse decreases quasi-linearly with increasing flight Mach number. Finally, we find that the performance of our pulse detonation engine exceeds that of the ramjet below a Mach number of 1.35.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:combustion; cycle analysis; gas dynamics; pulse detonation engines; ramjet; thermodynamics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Shepherd, Joseph E.
Group:GALCIT, Explosion Dynamics Laboratory
Thesis Committee:
  • Hornung, Hans G. (chair)
  • Culick, Fred E. C.
  • Polk, James E.
  • Shepherd, Joseph E.
  • Hunt, Melany L.
Defense Date:6 February 2004
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-04222004-121013
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:1451
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:03 May 2004
Last Modified:04 Feb 2021 02:35

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PDF (wintenberger_oneside.pdf) - Final Version
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PDF (wintenberger_twoside.pdf) - Final Version
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