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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 January, 2004, 11:52 GMT
Scientists beetle away at jet riddle
Bombardier Beetle
Leeds scientists are aiming to re-create the beetle's technique
A feisty beetle could pave the way to prevent an aircraft losing engine power in flight, scientists believe.

University of Leeds experts looking for ways to re-ignite failed jet engines after take-off are studying the defence mechanism of the African Bombardier Beetle.

The tiny yellow-and-black creature blasts a jet of boiling liquid at its enemies at 300 explosive pulses per second.

The fiery potion, which reaches 100C, is made in a heart-shaped chamber less than a millimetre long and tipped with a swivelling nozzle on the beetle's backside.

Now, experts in Leeds think these structures could hold the key to a more efficient re-ignition of engines in flight.

Aircraft engine failure is usually a result of fuel-flow problems, and while it is not common for a turbine to "go out" the planes can fly on the other engines without a problem.

Difficult process

But travelling with a reduced power output limit's the aircraft's range and requires high levels of flying skills.

Re-igniting an engine can be a slow and difficult process at altitude with thin air and temperatures as low as minus 50C.

A team led by thermodynamics expert Professor Andy McIntosh aims to develop a small combustion chamber based on the beetle's design.

The beetle naturally produces a mix of chemicals that generate heat and pressure.

The "pulse combustion" system is similar to the one which powered the German V1 "doodlebug" flying bombs during World War II.

The three-year project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will fully begin in February.

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