October 23, 2008

British Engineers Target 1,000mph Land Speed Record

The same British team that took the land speed record by breaking the sound barrier in 1997 has plans to take it even faster "“ up to 1,000mph.

Engineers at the University of Leeds hope to break the current record of 763mph "“ set in 1997 at the Black Rock desert in Nevada. On that attempt, researchers were able to break the sound barrier for the first time.

The new Bloodhound SSC (super sonic car) is built on a jet engine from a Typhoon fighter together with a hybrid rocket engine.

The 12.8m-long, 6.4-tonne car is expected to travel faster than a bullet fired from a handgun.

"This is one of the most exciting things you can do on God's Earth; and when you've the opportunity to do it really, really well, with the latest technology, you can't resist the challenge," said Bloodhound project leader Richard Noble.

Its 900mm-diameter wheels will spin so fast they will have to be made from a high-grade titanium to prevent them from flying apart.

In just 40 seconds, the car will accelerate from 0-1,050mph, causing air pressure on its carbon fiber and titanium frame to exceed 12 tons per square meter.

"This is a big engineering adventure," said Bloodhound's technical chief, John Piper.

"We've not seen anything yet which we can't overcome given the opportunity and the time. We don't have all the answers yet, but we have quite a few of them, and I'm sure other solutions will present themselves."

A V12 racecar engine powers a pump which will deliver one ton of HTP, a highly concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide, to fuel the rocket.

The Instrumental team, led by its founder and CEO Dr Greg Horler, together with Dr David McGorman and Tim Fish, was asked by the Bloodhound team to design an ECU (electronic control unit) to test the efficacy of the pump, which will have to reach 12,000rpm to empty the equivalent of some 1800 pints of fuel from the tank in under twenty seconds.

"To pump such a large amount of volatile liquid through a small tank at such a high speeds is an incredibly dangerous business," said Dr. Horler.

"If it doesn't work perfectly, it could explode at any time. The stresses that this vehicle will undergo are beyond anything experienced before; we're talking speeds that only a few years ago defied the imagination for a car. It's completely unknown territory."

Wing Commander Green acknowledges there will be risks involved but says the car will be designed to maximize his safety.

"Does that make it zero-risk? No. Is life with zero-risk interesting? No.

"This is worth making a risk for because it's a huge challenge and a huge prize at the end, not just for the biggest record but to inspire the next generation of engineers, to share it with every schoolchild in the country," he said.

In fact, Lord Drayson, a racing driver and the UK's new science minister, came up with the project when he asked Noble and Green to do something that would grab the attention of schoolchildren and turn them to careers in science and technology.

"The consequences if we don't inspire the next generation are that we will wither as a country," said Lord Drayson.

"Over the centuries, we've been involved in some of the most important scientific discoveries. The Brits are good at science. We have got to make sure the next generation gets the vision, and has the opportunity to maintain that tradition."

Noble added: "Our industries are starved of engineers. There are real problems on the education front; and, of course, what we've got now is the environmental challenge coming up.

"There are a vast number of new products that are needed, and Britain simply isn't going to play unless we have the engineers."

Following the launch, a 5-day exhibition will be open to the public at the Science Museum.


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