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Published on Aug 15, 2017
The modern jet engine took us higher and faster. Meet the two scientists who invented it at the same time in two different places.
Jet engines date back to the invention of the aeolipile before the first century AD. This device directed steam power through two nozzles to cause a sphere to spin rapidly on its axis. So far as is known, it did not supply mechanical power and the potential practical applications of this invention did not receive recognition. Instead, it was seen as a curiosity.
Jet propulsion only gained practical applications with the invention of the gunpowder-powered rocket by the Chinese in the 13th century as a type of firework, and gradually progressed to propel formidable weaponry. However, although very powerful, at reasonable flight speeds rockets are very inefficient and so jet propulsion technology stalled for hundreds of years.
In common parlance, the term jet engine loosely refers to an internal combustion airbreathing jet engine. These typically feature a rotating air compressor powered by a turbine, with the leftover power providing thrust via a propelling nozzle — this process is known as the Brayton thermodynamic cycle. Jet aircraft use such engines for long-distance travel. Early jet aircraft used turbojet engines which were relatively inefficient for subsonic flight. Modern subsonic jet aircraft usually use more complex high-bypass turbofan engines. These engines offer high speed and greater fuel efficiency than piston and propeller aeroengines over long distances.