Thinking Tech

World's fastest motorcycle powered by a jet engine

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A new jet-powered motorcycle may make the next world record for fastest land speed.

Engineer Richard Brown intends to break the world record for land-speed on a motorcycle. And he doesn’t plan to use a conventional engine but rather a jet engine. The current world record is held by Rocky Robinson in 2010 who managed to nail a two-way average speed of 606 km/h along the salt flats in Bonneville, UT on a bike he called the Ack Attack Streamliner.

Brown became known as the fastest man on two wheels when he broke the documented one-way speed for a motorbike back in 1999, also in Bonneville, with a speed of 584 km/h. (For an official land-speed world record the average of two runs in opposite directions is required. Taking the average speed from two opposite runs negates the effects of wind. Brown never broke the world record in 1999.) He is heading back to the same salt flats to get this new bike up to 720 km/h for at least one of the runs. And plans to bring the average two-way speed to 640 km/h which will crack Robinson’s current record.

So far all super fast record-breaking motorbikes have used conventional engines. Using heavy jet engines is ok for cars but proves challenging to balance on two wheels. As Brown writes on his web site:

...to use thrust on two wheels you either need to scratch build a rocket system or substantially modify another type of gas turbine, neither is easy.

For his new bike called Jet Reaction, Brown will use a modified 1250 horsepower helicopter engine to provide thrust.

Brilliantly Brown has also created a reheat unit to further boost power. Apparently it will spray fuel into the exhaust gases, “causing it to ignite and generate yet more thrust.” The entire result is much lighter and smaller than typical jet engines, yet still with extreme power.

Mark Chapman, an engineer for the jet-powered car Bloodhound, is quoted in New Scientist,

"The biggest issue is air intake. You have to be sure the air flow through the jet is stable or the engine could surge, which could be dangerous."

From the article:

Brown has a track record in ambitious jet engine projects. Following his 1999 record attempt he built a sub-orbital rocket, but the launch in South Africa had to be cancelled. He is also working on a gas-turbine-powered jet pack, similar to one developed by the US military, that he hopes will allow the wearer to remain airborne for 10 minutes.

Brown's 1999 record attempt involved his own Gillette Mach 3 Challenger bike, which featured a custom-built hybrid rocket engine. The attempt failed because soft ground forced the team to use tires rather than the usual aluminum wheels. The tires were only designed to withstand speeds of 380 km/h or so. Eventually the massive centrifugal forces on the rear tire caused it to deflate.

Brown will complete trials with Jet Reaction in the UK next March. He intends to break the world record at the Bonneville salt flats in 2013.

[via New Scientist]

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Christie Nicholson

Contributing Writer

Christie Nicholson produces and hosts Scientific American's podcasts 60-Second Mind and 60-Second Science and is an on-air contributor for Slate, Babelgum, Scientific American, Discovery Channel and Science Channel. She has spoken at MIT/Stanford VLAB, SXSW Interactive, the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council, the Space Studies Board and Brookhaven National Laboratory. She holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Dalhousie University in Canada. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure