A DIY Mini Pulse Jet Engine
The valveless pulse jet engine or pulse detonation engine is the most simple type of jet and is therefore popular among hobbyists as a DIY project. it is often referred to as a ‘tuned pipe’ because its operation depends upon making the parts the right size and shape so that it fires, or resonates at the engines natural, fundamental frequency. This type of jet propulsion does not need any type of turbine, turbofan, or propeller, making it much less complex than a typical turbojet. In a turbojet the turbine or turbofan is used to compress the fuel/air mixture in the combustion chamber so that it is more efficient and powerful.
This jet engine has absolutely no moving parts and it relies on the simple shape of the combustion chamber and exhaust for it to function. The fuel to the jet is provided at a constant rate, but it is detonated in pulses. After each explosion there remains a lower pressure area inside the combustion chamber. This is immediately filled as air rushes back in and mixes with the fuel feed ready for detonation again.
This example of a homemade jet engine is about as simple as it gets, but it could not be used for propulsion purposes because it is only safe to operate for a short time. The main body of the pulse jet engine is made from copper pipes and various adaptors. The combustion chamber is made from two copper adaptors that have been cut and soldered together. Copper is an excellent thermal conductor which helps to spread the heat throughout the jet, but solder melts very easily so if the jet engine were allowed to run for more than a few seconds this part could come apart. This was enough to demonstrate the principles of operation which is all this DIY jet engine was designed for. If you wanted a working model for providing thrust, it would be necessary to consider different materials as a running jet will get very hot.
These images show the basic ‘tuned pipe’ without the spark plug and gas supply. Tuning was achieved by altering the length and width of the parts used. This was quite simple as there are wide range of plumbing parts that will easily fit together.
The fuel was provided from a cheap blow torch and was injected into the combustion chamber using fine brass tubes bought from a local hobby shop. This chamber also contained a tiny homemade spark plug. The spark rate could be controlled by varying the power to a HV capacitor connected in parallel with the spark plug.
The spark plug its self was just a single wire inside a small glass fuse. This wire was connected to one capacitor terminal (live) and the body of the jet engine was connected to the other terminal (earth). The spark would jump from the tip of the wire to the inside of the combustion chamber to ignite the fuel mixture.
The simple design and adjustability of this jet means that a wide variety of fuels can be used. The most common fuel used is kerosene and propane, but common lighter gas will work for this basic demonstration. Click here for More information on Jet Engines.