1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Could a jet engine be run on nuclear power?

  1. Apr 30, 2013 #1
    I know people have designed nuclear rocket engines, but is there any reason you couldn't have a nuclear thermal jet engine? Simply take a conventional jet and swap out the combustion area with a small reactor? Could the same idea work at higher speeds with a nuclear ramjet, or scramjet equivalent?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2013 #2
  4. Apr 30, 2013 #3
    Well I'll be damned; I was aware of that program, I just didn't think they had planned to put the reactors directly in the engines.

    So this could potentially empower a SSTO space craft, with a hybrid nuclear thermal jet/rocket? How cool would that be?
  5. Apr 30, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Did you read the Wiki article? One sentence from it ought be enough for you to see they were not trying to propel the Bomber at all: "Its sole purpose was to investigate the effect of radiation on aircraft systems."
  6. May 1, 2013 #5
    ...Read further. That's how far they actually tested. That wasn't the end goal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convair_X-6#Development_plans
  7. May 1, 2013 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    To answer your question about powering a ramjet or scramjet with nuclear power, I would say that it is a stretch with a ramjet and pretty much no way with a scramjet. The air passing through a scramjet is only in the combustion chamber for milliseconds at best. It would be very, very difficult to transfer a meaningful amount of heat into the flow in that amount of time. It is hard enough when you mix fuel with the air and then ignite it. Trying to transfer heat through convection from the sides would take much longer.
  8. May 1, 2013 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor





Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook