How the Rotating Detonation Engine Works

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Author's Note: How the Rotating Detonation Engine Works

It doesn't appear anyone's suggested (not yet, anyway) that the rotating detonation engine might actually have potential to be used in cars or trucks. It was invented by a guy who specialized in military technology and is being pushed into development by the U.S. Navy. The actual size of the engine model in development hasn't been mentioned anywhere, so this is all speculation. But we do know this: It's obviously big enough to power ships and planes, and that's way more power than a car needs. Where would the efficiency be in that?

But years of writing about cars and transportation technology has shown me that a lot of the stuff we use every day was originally developed for completely different purposes -- and race cars and military vehicles are two common sources. Even though fuel-efficient cars are currently going in a different direction (hybrids, electrics and biofuels), it's not incomprehensible to say that someday, someone could find a way to scale down a super-efficient gas-turbine engine and stuff it under the hood of a car.

Related Articles


  • Google Patents. "Patent US4741154 -- Rotary detonation engine." (Feb. 17, 2013)
  • Green Car Congress. "Navy researchers project Rotating Detonation-Wave Engines could yield 10 percent power gain, 25 percent reduction in fuel burn over gas turbines." Nov. 2, 2012. (Feb. 13, 2013)
  • PatentBuddy. "Eidelman, Shmuel." 2013. (Feb. 17, 2013)
  • Physics Today. "US Navy developing rotating detonation engine." Nov. 6, 2012. (Feb. 13, 2013)
  • Quick, Darren. "U.S. Navy investigates use of fuel-saving Rotating Detonation Engines." Nov. 4, 2012. (Feb. 13, 2013)
  • U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. "Navy Researchers Look to Rotating Detonation Engines to Power the Future." Nov. 2, 2012. (Feb. 13, 2013)