Beijing-based researchers claim to have developed a generator that transforms hot gas traveling at hypersonic speeds into a strong electric current that can power cutting-edge futuristic weapons.
The generator system triggers explosions that transform the gas into increasingly fast plasma. The energy of the plasma is subsequently converted into highly powerful electricity.
According to the researchers, the technology could also be applied to non-military applications, such as producing nuclear fusion energy or sending a strong SOS signal in an emergency.
In a peer-reviewed article released on January 19 in the Chinese Journal of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, the researchers claimed that the gadget generated more than ten times the power generated in earlier studies, the report added.
The revelation was made by a team led by assistant researcher Zhang Xiaoyuan from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Mechanics.
The device produced powerful shock waves by exploding hydrogen and oxygen in one experiment.
By compressing and accelerating argon gas to Mach 14, or 14 times the speed of sound, the shock waves transformed the inert gas into a highly conductive plasma filled with hot, electrically charged particles.
The plasma flowed through a magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) generator. It is a device that resembles a tube that can capture energy from quickly flowing ions and transform it into electricity.
The MHD generator addresses some of the most significant challenges in creating and using pulsed energy weapons, which unleash massive energy bursts to destroy a target.
In contrast to conventional combustion, a method of producing electricity that usually necessitates a sizable, sophisticated facility with generators, the MHD generator can produce high-power electricity inside a simple and relatively compact system.
The report noted that among its many exceptional benefits, the MHD generator has no revolving components.
“It has a large capacity and high efficiency. There is no need for intermediate energy storage components. The energy can be directly transferred to the load without a high-power switch. And the device can start up quickly,” the Chinese researchers noted.
Will It Be Put Into Operation For Military Use?
China’s desire to enhance its hypersonic weapon capabilities has been progressing swiftly, with its researchers working round-the-clock to gain an advantage over the US and its allies.
The primary objective of China’s hypersonic weapons program was to build missiles that could outrun an air defense system and achieve speeds greater than five times the speed of sound.
Beijing’s massive investment in its hypersonic weapons program has stimulated research in various other fields, including novel materials, communication technology, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Shashank S Patel, a research analyst, told the EurAsian Times, “There is no doubt about the successful tests of hypersonic missiles done by China in the last two years. Also, their AI-powered air defense system tracks and tackles foreign hypersonic weapons by launching counterattacks within minutes. “
He added, “Several sources confirmed that China’s air-breathing engine could boost a plane or missile by five to seven times the speed of sound or even more. The best example one can assess is the upgradation of a ballistic DF-21D missile to YJ-21 which proved its hypersonic capabilities in the Xinjiang desert in June 2022.”
The generator developed by the research team was assembled and tested in a Beijing-based facility for producing hypersonic weapons.
China is reportedly working on a high-power microwave weapon that may be used to disrupt satellites and aircraft.
Some powerful laser weapons currently under development would require a megawatt or more electricity to destroy a target at a distance.
Zhang’s team claimed their generator system could produce one-gigawatt power with just five cubic meters (177 cubic feet) of hypersonic plasma.
Other researchers, according to Zhang’s team, explored using dynamite to set off hypersonic shock waves for an MHD generator, but this method required a lot of chemical explosives and was mainly dropped due to safety concerns.
Patel noted, “The test affirms the induction of next-gen tech in military usage. As far as the power generators are concerned, it seems a tall claim as the need for such sophistication in military use needs contained sonic boom cartridges to tackle high-power ions & charged plasma at the same time.”
“It is simply irresistible for any compound as of now. The burst generated from this can’t be tamped within a canister-based actuator,” he added.
Meanwhile, another Chinese expert, who specializes in the physics of high-speed fluids, told SCMP that military users would have concerns about the technology the Chinese team put out.
He suggested detonation shock devices will face numerous engineering challenges on mobile platforms for pulsed energy weapons, such as warships, aircraft, and trucks.
The technology includes a detonation shock tunnel comprising several tube sections divided by metallic membranes, allowing researchers to regulate the explosions.
The Beijing-based researcher pointed out that unless the task could be mechanized speedily and reliably, reloading fresh membranes after each fire may be challenging on the battlefield.
Furthermore, the explosion that generated the electricity might also make a loud noise revealing where the weapon was.