|04-07-10, 05:06 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2007
New fuel wow
Aluminum Fuel Could Power Future Space Trips
A new type of rocket propellant made of water and nanoscale aluminum powder could power rockets to the moon and beyond.
By Eric Bland
Tue Nov 3, 2009 06:58 AM ET
1 Comments | Leave a Comment PrintEmail
This test rocket soared 1300 feet into the air using seven inches of a new, environmentally friendly fuel made of nanoaluminum and ice.
Purdue University/Steven Son
Aluminum and water is usually a boring combination, but light a mixture of nanoaluminum and ice and the results are explosive.
Scientists from Purdue University have created a new, environmentally friendly solid rocket fuel that recently sent a rocket screaming 1300 feet into the air using seven inches of nanoaluminum and ice. The new fuel could power missions to the moon or Mars while dramatically reducing the amount of on-board fuel.
"Theoretically you can get very high temperatures using aluminum and water, but the kinetics would be so slow and it would be so hard to ignite that it's very hard to actually make the rocket work," said Steven Son, a professor at Purdue University in Indiana who helped develop the new fuel.
Breaking solid aluminum into very tiny, nanoscopic pieces however, "increases the kinetics to the point where this actually works."
Aluminum already comprises a small percentage of the solid rocket booster used by the space shuttle. The difference between the old aluminum fuel and the new aluminum fuel is the size. Existing aluminum fuel is microns across. The new aluminum fuel is even smaller, averaging 80 nanometers across.
Nanoaluminum can before formed in several ways, all chemical. "There isn't a fine enough blade to just chop it up," said Son. "We use a hot plasma to create an inert aluminum vapor, and then carefully condense that while slowly allowing some to create an oxide."
The final product is a loose and fluffy black powder. Aluminum ice, or ALICE for short, can be compressed into a solid bar for safe and easy shipping. Nanoaluminum smaller than 80 nanometers can be created, but it doesn't allow enough oxidation to occur on the surface of each particle, which means not as much thrust. Eighty nanometers, say scientists, appears to provide the maximum amount of thrust.
During a recent field test, the Purdue team launched a nine-foot tall rocket more than 1300 feet into the air using a hollow rod of ALICE seven inches long and three inches across. In less than a second the rocket had accelerated to approximately 200 miles per hour.
That kind of performance is either at or just below what current solid rocket boosters are capable of, says Son and Nick Glumac, a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne. Even if the performance is slightly below current solid rocket fuel, the side benefits of ALICE are significant.
Since ice exists on both Mars and the Moon, ALICE could be manufactured on site. Creating rocket fuel at either location means spacecraft wouldn't have to carry all the fuel for the return trip to Earth; they could simple create it when they arrived.
ALICE is also environmentally friendly. The existing solid rocket booster on the space shuttle produces about 230 tons of hydrochloric acid for every flight. ALICE fuel produces aluminum oxide, found in ceramics and precious stones like rubies, and hydrogen gas.
"It's really great to have a propellant that has excellent performance with such a simple and abundant formulation," said Glumac. "It's not as good at the top propellants, but for many applications this is good enough, and the low cost of fuel makes sure it can be used for a variety of different applications."
Still, 1300 feet into the atmosphere is a far cry from the 238,857 miles to the moon. Son says the new propellant will require years of testing to ensure its stability at the various temperatures and pressures influence the rocket's performance.
"We need to see how these pressures affect the propellant," said Son. "Otherwise the rocket could become a firework, but so far it has all worked out quite well."
|04-07-10, 08:15 PM||#2 (permalink)|
Cost efficient muppet
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: W. Yorkshire TW area
Re: New fuel wow
Thats pretty good, however one day we will run out of water on Mars and the Moon. It is still, however a big step forward for science.
Maybe, one day we could power our cars and our electricity from such fuel, but at the moment we rely on our fossil fuels. What the UAE is (apparently) doing, is creating a solar city, and other Arab nations(ie: Egypt) are using the sahara to harness the power from the sun, to sell abroad
The problem here is, that solar cells can use more energy to make, and its simply not worth having solar panels if they only have a tiny(its tiny, in comparison to other fuels) life span, and then we would need to find the energy somewhere to create the photo voltaic cells
We could in the UK, compete with other windy nations to deliver wind powered electricity to other nations, bringing more jobs in for the people, and also making the economy thrive as a whole
Also, I would assume that plastics would cost considerably more if our crude oil depletes completely, as the alternatives cost more and take longer to produce(presumably)
We would also need vast greenhouses to produce these biplastics that are biodegradable or we could mine for coal(clean coal), nor wood as it would mean cutting down yet more trees
Saying this, apparently, only 4% of all world oil is used in making plastics
What we need on Earth is a mixture of the following(in order of importance), once oil has depleted
Lots more Off shore wind farms(for optimum results, and because no one will complain)
I would assume, that whilst the gov'ts of the world would like to look good in the public eye, and help people reduce their energy bills at home(by putting up solar panels etc...), there would still be big energy companies about, as that brings every gov't money in via taxes
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