Popular Mechanics reported in February that scientists in China are claiming to have conducted preliminary tests on a hypersonic generator that is powerful enough to charge military equipment like microwave weapons, military lasers, and rails guns.
According to a report in the South China Morning Post, a new peer-reviewed study published in the Chinese Journal of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics outlines how a hypersonic generator can use a detonation within a shock tunnel to create enough electrical current to power hypersonic weapons.
Using a controlled detonation, the scientists turned hot gas into an ion-filled plasma that can then be converted to an electrical current. Using shock waves that accelerate compressed argon gas at 14 times the speed of sound, the plasma then passes through magnetohydrodynamic generators producing up to 212 kilowatts of electric current while using 0.26 gallons of gas.
According to the paper, this hypersonic generator provides both “a large capacity and high efficiency” without the need for “intermediate energy storage components” since the energy can be transferred directly to the load “without a high-power switch,” allowing the device to “start up quickly.”
The generator’s efficiency and ease of use are also increased due to the lack of rotating parts.
Many of the largest military weapons currently in development require an input power of a gigawatt. The scientists believe they will be able to produce a gigawatt using 177 cubic feet of hypersonic plasma, which, according to Popular Mechanics, is smaller than a van.
The hypersonic generator is nowhere near ready for deployment as there are still plenty of logistical issues that need to be addressed, including figuring out how to transport something that requires a controlled detonation and how to handle the gas required for the second charge while the device is in transport.