A never-ending detonation could be the key to hypersonic flight and space planes that can seamlessly fly from Earth into orbit. And now, researchers have recreated the explosive phenomenon in the lab that could make it possible.
Detonations are a particularly powerful kind of explosion that move outward faster than the speed of sound. The massive explosion that rocked the port of Beirut in Lebanon last August was a detonation, and the widespread destruction it caused demonstrates the huge amounts of energy they can produce.
Scientists have long dreamed of building aircraft engines that can harness this energy; such craft could theoretically fly from New York to London in under an hour. But detonations are incredibly hard to control and typically last less than a microsecond, so no one has yet been able to make them a reality.