The Airbus Group is pursuing an innovative propulsion concept in cooperation with its Russian partners

13 January 2014

Working together with Russian institutions, and backed by a Skolkovo Foundation grant, Airbus Group Innovations is exploring applications for the continuous detonation wave engine (CDWE) – a radical new technology which could offer significantly more efficient and capable propulsion systems for civil aircraft.

When fitted to a conventional jet engine, CDWE technology offers to transform overall engine performance and simplify its design by using detonation waves to combust the fuel and oxidizer mixture, which is expected to deliver substantial fuel savings while reducing emissions.


This high-speed photo shows continuous detonation wave engine testing, as part of Airbus Group Innovations collaborative project with Russia’s Lavrentiev Institute and Central Institute for Aviation Motors (CIAM), which is backed by a grant from the Skolkovo Foundation.

Theoretically, this system can operate from subsonic up to a hypersonic flight speed of roughly Mach 5, with higher efficiency than designs such as turbojets and turbofans. This is because a detonation wave rapidly compresses the mixture and adds heat at constant volume – providing a thermal efficiency improvement of approximately 25 percent.

This innovative research program results from the Airbus Group’s close working relationship with the Skolkovo high-tech campus – through which the company’s Airbus Group Innovations-Russia operation is coordinated – as well as its continuous detonation wave engine project partners: the Lavrentiev Institute and Central Institute for Aviation Motors (CIAM).


Shown during testing, the continuous detonation wave engine project’s small-scale demonstrator has been used to evaluate this innovative propulsion concept with homogeneous and heterogeneous fuel mixtures.


In 2011, the Skolkovo Foundation – which is responsible for the Russian Skolkovo Innovation Center – awarded the Airbus Group (then EADS) and its partners a grant for the joint-research project covering continuous wave detonation that brings together decades of Russian research with the Airbus Group’s expertise in translating technology into successful applications.

To demonstrate the concept’s feasibility, tests have been carried out to evaluate a CDWE combustion chamber, performed in a Novosibirsk test cell operated by the Lavrentiev Institute’s Heterogeneous Systems Dynamics Laboratory.