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A jet engine, or more A common misconception

correctly a gas turbine is that rockets accelerate
engine, is a practical because the gases
application of Newton’s rushing out the back of
third law. Newton the engine push against
discovered that for every the ground or the
action there is an equal atmosphere. Not true
and opposite reaction. what happens instead is
Sitting in a boat, you that a rocket exerts a
push against the strong force on the gases,
riverbank. The boat moves away from the expelling them, and the gases exert on equal
bank into the river. The force that you exerted and opposite force on the rocket. It is this latter
on the bank is the action; the reaction is to force that propels the rocket forward.
move the boat in the opposite direction to the
H O W W E C A N W AL K ?
A gas turbine engine works, in layman’s terms by
sucking in air using fan blades on the front of the Consider how we
engine. The air is then compressed using the walk. A person
screw compressor principle of forcing the air down begins walking by
a “thread” that continually decreases in width. pushing with the foot
against the
Heat is added by burning fuel in the combustion ground. The ground
chamber, which significantly increases the volume then exerts on equal
of air. The expansion of the gasses that occurs is and opposite force
a result of combustion exit at high speed through back on the person
the jet pipe and back into the atmosphere. The and it is this force, on
force of the gas leaving the engine is what the person, that
generates the thrust. moves the person
The name jet engine has come about due to the
jet of gas being force out of the engine. Going (If you doubt this, try walking on very smooth
back to Newton’s law, the jet efflux leaving the slippery ice.)
engine has a force or reaction, the opposite
reaction is that the aircraft moves forward. It is
often assumed that the jet efflux is pushing
against, the static air behind the engine. This
however is a misconception; jet reaction is an
internal phenomenon. It is simply the force
expelling the gas that generates forward thrust.

Think of a garden hose with a high pressure

nozzle. I’m sure most people have switched on
the tap and then had to chase the end of the W H AT M AK E S A C AR M O V E
hosepipe around the garden. FO R W A R D ?


A common answer is that the engine makes the

car move forward. But it is not so simple. The
engine makes the wheels go around. But what
good is that if they are on slick ice or mud? They
just spin. A car moves forward due to the friction
force exerted by the ground on the tires, and this
force is the reaction to the force exerted on the
ground by the tires.
JE T R E AC T I O N AT A N O Z Z L E appreciated that whilst one fire fighter could
easily handle a 10 mm jet, if the size of the
When water is projected from a nozzle, a nozzle is doubled, the reaction increases to
reaction four times, making it much more difficult, for
equal and one fire fighter to control.
to the force of EX AM P LE S O F T Y PI C A L
the jet take EX AM I N AT I O N Q U E S T I O N S
place at the
nozzle, and • Develop an expression for the force exerted
the latter tends by a jet of water which strikes a stationary
to recoil in the flat plate normally?
direction to the • Derive the fire fighters formula for jet
flow. reaction?
Thus the fire
fighter holding the branch must exert sufficient • A jet of water from a 12mm diameter nozzle
effort towards the jet to overcome this reaction. impinges normally with a velocity of 40m/s
on a stationary flat plate. Calculate the force
The whole of the reaction takes place as the exerted by the water on the plate?
water leaves the nozzle, and whether or not the
jet strikes a nearby object has no effect on the • The nozzle of a fire – hose produces a 50
reaction. Thus whether or not a jet held by a mm diameter jet of water. If the discharge is
fire fighter on a ladder strikes a wall is 85 dm³/s, calculate the reaction of the jet if
immaterial to his stability on the ladder, which the jet velocity is 10 times the velocity of the
is governed solely by the reaction of the nozzle. water in the hose?

While it is often possible for one fire fighter to • A person exerts an upward force of 40 N to
hold a small jet, several fire fighters are hold a bag of groceries. Describe the
required for a large jet, even though the reaction force (newton’s third law) by stating
velocity in both jets may be the same. The (a) its magnitude, (b) its direction, (c) on
reason for this is that in the case of the small what body it is exerted, and (d) by what body
jet the reaction takes place on a small mass of it is exerted.
water per second, and consequently one man
can counteract that reaction, but in the case of • When you stand still on the ground, how
a large jet the reaction takes place on a large large a force does the ground exert on you?
mass of water per second, with the result that Why doesn’t this force make you rise up into
either a number of fire fighters are needed to the air?
hold the branch, or the reaction must be taken
by some form of support, such as a branch • Water leaves a hose at a rate of 1,5 kg/s with
holder. a speed of 20m/s and is aimed at the side of
a car, which stops it, What is the force
The approximate reaction of a jet in Newton exerted by the water on the car and what if
can be calculated from the formula: the water splashes back from the car , would
2 the force on the car be greater or less?
R = 0,00157Pd

Where R = reaction in newtons,

P = pressure in kPa at the
d = diameter of nozzle in

If you calculate the difference between the

reaction of the water leaving a 20 mm nozzle
as compared with a 10 mm nozzle if the
pressure in both cases is 1000 kPa? EVERY ACTION HAS AN OPPOSITE AND
(a) With 20 mm nozzle SATISFACTION!!!!
0.00157 x 20 x 20 x 1000 = 628N
(b) With 10 mm nozzle Compiled by Danie Wilds on behalf of
0.00157 x 10 x 10 x 1000 = 157 N
= /4 x 628 N
the SAESI Education Committee.
Further information can be obtained
It will be seen that the reaction of the water from:
leaving a nozzle varies as the square of the Danie Wilds
diameter of the nozzle, and it can therefore be TEL: 082 8221 233