Composite propellant aluminum agglomeration reduction using tailored Al/PTFE particles

Travis R Sippel, Purdue University


Micron aluminum is widely used in propellants; however, performance could be significantly improved if ignition barriers could be disrupted and combustion tailored. In solid propellants for example, aluminum increases theoretical specific impulse performance, yet theoretical levels cannot be achieved largely because of two-phase flow losses. These losses could be reduced if particles quickly ignited, more gaseous products were produced, and if particle breakup occurred during combustion. To achieve altered aluminum ignition and particle combustion, this work explores the use of low level (10-30 wt.%) fluorocarbon (polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or poly(carbon monofluoride) (PMF)) inclusion inside of aluminum via low or high energy mechanical activation. Aluminum/PTFE particles are found to be amenable to use in binder based energetics, having average particle sizes ranging from 15 to 78 &mgr;m, ~2-7 m2/g, specific surface area, and combustion enthalpies as high as 20.2 kJ/g. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) experiments indicate high energy MA reduces both reaction and oxidation onset to ~440 °C that is far below aluminum alone. Safety testing shows these particles have high electrostatic discharge (ESD) (89.9-108 mJ), impact (> 213 cm), and friction (> 360 N) ignition thresholds. The idea of further increasing reactivity and increasing particle combustion enthalpy is explored by reducing fluorocarbon inclusion content to 10 wt.% and through the use of the strained fluorocarbon PMF. Combustion enthalpy and average particle size range from 18.9 to 28.5 kJ/g and 23.0 to 67.5 &mgr;m, respectively and depend on MA intensity, duration, and inclusion level. Specific surface areas are high (5.3 to 34.8 m2/g) and as such, Al/PMF particles are appropriate for energetic applications not requiring a curable liquid binder. Mechanical activation reduces oxidation onset (DSC) from 555 to 480 °C (70/30 wt.%). Aluminum/PMF particles are sensitive to ESD (11.5-47.5 mJ) and some can be ignited via optical flash. Propellant aluminum agglomeration is assessed through replacement of reference aluminum powders (spherical, flake, or nanoscale) with Al/PTFE (90/10 or 70/30 wt.%) particles. The effects on burning rate, pressure dependence, and aluminum ignition, combustion, and agglomeration are quantified. Microscopic imaging shows tailored particles promptly ignite at the burning surface and appear to breakup into smaller particles. Replacement of spherical aluminum with Al/PTFE 70/30 wt.% also increases the pressure exponent from 0.36 to 0.58, which results in a 50% increase in propellant burning rate at 13.8 MPa. Combustion products were quench collected using a liquid-free technique at 2.1 and 6.9 MPa. Sizing of products indicates that composite particles result in nominally 25 &mgr;m coarse products, which are smaller than the original, average particle size and are also 66% smaller in diameter (96% by volume) than the 76 &mgr;m products collected from reference spherical aluminized propellant. Smaller diameter condensed phase products and more gaseous products will likely decrease two-phase flow loss and reduce slag accumulation in solid rocket motors.




Groven, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Aerospace engineering|Mechanical engineering

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