Editorial Feature

Emerging Technologies Utilising Nanotechnology in Aerospace and Rocket Fuels

Several aerospace firms have programmes under way for the use of nanosized particles of aluminium or hafnium for rocket propulsion applications. The improved burn and the speed of ignition of such particles are significant factors for this market.

Rocket Propulsion for Launch Platforms

With the advent of telecommunications and other satellites, there is a major growth in the use of rocket propulsion for launch platforms. As compared to solid propellants, liquid propellant fluids, principally kerosene, are used in non-military systems such as space engines, because they use liquid oxygen in first stage boosters. Such fuels are not storable as are solids, and therefore impractical for military platforms. As a result, there is a major interest in increasing the specific impulse of liquid propellants.

Adding Aluminium To Rocket Repulsion Fuel

Adding aluminium would accomplish that objective but it has not been used to date because aluminium when added to kerosene does not burn efficiently. Aluminized liquid hydrocarbon propellant fuels would increase propulsion energy; particularly in volume limited systems through the utilization of nanosize aluminium.

Other Rocket Fuel Additives

Rocket-fuel additives containing iron-oxide particles 3nm wide can act as a catalyst to convert solid propellants into gases that are burned when rockets or missiles are launched, making it more reactive than traditional iron-oxide catalysts, allowing faster conversion of the propellants and greater speed or range for the missiles.

Future Applications Of Nanotechnological Fuel Products

An example of a future use of Nanotechnology in fuel is Nanogellant gelled propellants. These gellants have a nanometre scale structure. The Nanogellent also has an enormously high surface area per gram. Gelled fuel reduces leakage and increases safety. Nanogellant for gelled cryogens has a surface area of nearly 1000m2/g, leading to cryogenic fuels gelled with 25-50% less mass than traditional gellant material. Another use is the Nanoparticulate of aluminium which can be used for jet fuels. These smaller particles allow for more efficient combustion and lower specific fuel consumption. It is hoped the adoption of both nano fuels will be seen used for the next generation of aerospace vehicles.

Primary author: Institute of Nanotechnology

Source: Introduction to Nanotechnology CD ROM

For more information on this source please visit Institute of Nanotechnology

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