The Academy had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Isaiah Blankson, a Senior Technologist at NASA Glenn as part of their “Speaker Series” that provided engaging talks during the work day. Held in the typical Glenn auditorium, Dr. Blankson began his talk titled “MHD – Controlled Turbojet Engine: an Alternate Power Plant for Access to Space” right on time. The majority of the talk was focused around the concept of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) and more specifically the benefits MHD can provide to air breathing engines for space access. For applications consisting of global-range cruise vehicles, two-stage space access vehicles, and energy-on-demand hypersonic systems, the MHD energy bypass engine would rely on either a conventional gas turbine structure or even an exoskeletal structure. Concerned with Mach numbers in the 0-7 range, researchers of MHD focus on aspects such as the magnetic field, electric field, and plasma flow interaction to improve sustained hypersonic flight. Ultimately, MHD can generate power by using plasma to convert heat energy to electrical energy while having the advantages of operating continuously without the “dead weight” of engines being carried.
Dr. Blankson then introduced the MHD research Glenn has conducted in the recent years since MHD conception. Having built and tested a MHD controlled turbojet high speed propulsion test, it is believed experimental results can exceed the Mach 7 cap initially proposed. Preliminary results show that Mach 0.9-2.0 demonstrates aerodynamic control with WIG. However, Mach 2+ contains power generation and bypass questions that threaten the feasibility of the project. Having the leading patent in the MHD industry, Dr. Blankson hopes to use an air force engine in conjunction with an MHD power extractor.