Continuous Detonation Engine Combustors

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OPEN 2012
Canoga Park, California
Project Term:
06/14/2013 - 03/15/2015

Critical Need:

Roughly 20% of U.S. electric power generation comes from natural gas. Natural gas is projected to increase in usage as the fuel of choice for electricity generation and possibly transportation due to its lower cost and GHG emissions as compared to coal or petroleum. Therefore, there is an opportunity for disruptive technologies that increase the efficiency of electricity generation from natural gas-fueled turbines. If successful, this technology would assist with reducing both national energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) is developing a new combustor for gas turbine engines that uses shockwaves for more efficient combustion through a process known as continuous detonation. These combustors would enable more electricity to be generated from a given amount of natural gas, increasing the efficiency of gas turbine engines while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. PWR will design and build continuous detonation combustors and test them in a simulated gas turbine environment to demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating the technology into natural gas-fueled turbine electric power generators.

Potential Impact:

If successful and widely deployed, PWR’s continuous detonation combustor technology would enable a 14% reduction in specific fuel consumption in a gas turbine which could add up to a 4% reduction in U.S. power grid use, substantially reducing natural gas consumption and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.


Enabling more efficient and cost-effective use of natural gas for power generation would improve the stability of the electric grid and increase our national energy security by supporting abundant domestic energy resources.


Natural gas power generation at scale could result in 80 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions reduction per year.


PWR’s technology could yield over $5 million dollars per year of savings in reduced fuel costs for every large scale turbine in service.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Bryan Willson
Project Contact:
Dr. Glenn Havskjold
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


United Technologies Research Center

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