‘Hypersonic’ 90 minute flights to New York possible thanks to 3D printing

Ever since Concorde was retired in 2003, globetrotters have had to make do with conventional air travel.

It actually takes longer today to fly across the Atlantic than it did in the 1990s thanks to the loss of supersonic plane travel.

Luckily, scientists are working on new technologies that could see planes travel even faster than the Concorde. 'Hypersonic' flight – which could get you from London to Australia in four hours – may now be a possibility thanks to a breakthrough in 3D printing technology.

A team of engineers at Melbourne's RMIT University claim to have invented 3D printed 'catalysts' that could allow aircraft to fly at five times the speed of sound, or 3,800 miles per hour.

So far, the biggest challenge to achieving hypersonic, and indeed supersonic flight, is that the fuel in high-speed planes burns at insanely hot temperatures, which causes aircraft to overheat.

Now, using a 3D printer – a device which allows you to 'print' 3D objects and materials at any scale – scientists are able to produce and shape the catalysts which essentially work to cool down burning jet fuel to manageable temperatures.

The chief researcher Dr Selvakanna Periasamy says that this can tackle one of the biggest challenges when it comes to developing the superspeed technology:

"Our lab tests show the 3D printed catalysts we've developed have great promise for fuelling the future of hypersonic flight," he said.

Hypersonic flight technology is still in its early stages, and once complete, a flight is likely to be much more pricey than a £20 return to Prague on Ryanair. Back in the 1990s, the average round trip on British Airways' Concorde cost $12,000, or around £8200.

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That doesn't mean your trip through the airport is going to be quicker any time soon.

There is progress being made, however.

This year, Boom Supersonic sold 15 high-speed jets to United Airlines for flight in 2029, while hypersonic aircraft builder Hermeus received a $60 million grant from the US Air Force to start work on its engines.

It hopes to get travel times between London and New York down under two hours.

  • Hypersonic
  • Technology

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