Altered combustion characteristics of metallized energetics due to stable secondary material inclusion

Brandon C Terry, Purdue University


Though metals and metalloids have been widely considered as reactive fuels, the ability to tune their ignition and combustion characteristics remains challenging. One means to accomplish this may be through low-level inclusion of secondary materials into the metallized fuel. While there are several potential methods to stably introduce secondary inclusion materials, this work focuses on the use of mechanical activation (MA) and metal alloys. Recent work has shown that low-level inclusion of fluoropolymers into aluminum particles can have a substantial effect on their combustion characteristics. The reflected shock ignition of mechanically activated aluminum/polytetrafluoroethylene (MA Al/PTFE) is compared to a physical mixture (PM) of Al/PTFE, neat spherical aluminum, and flake aluminum. It was found that the powders with higher specific surface areas ignited faster than the spherical particles of the same size, and had ignition delay times comparable to agglomerates of aluminum particles that were two orders of magnitude smaller in size. Flake aluminum powder had the same ignition delay as MA Al/PTFE, indicating that any initial aluminum/fluoropolymer reactions did not yield an earlier onset of aluminum oxidation. However, MA Al/PTFE did have a shorter total burn time. The PM of Al/PTFE powder had a shorter ignition delay than neat spherical aluminum due to the rapid decomposition of PTFE into reactive fluorocarbon compounds, but the subsequent fluorocarbon reactions also created a secondary luminosity profile that significantly increased the total burn time of the system. The explosive shock ignition of aluminum and aluminum-silicon eutectic alloy compacts was evaluated with and without polymer inclusions. A statistical analysis was completed, investigating the effects of: detonation train orientation (into or not into a hard surface); the high explosive driver; whether the metal/polymer system is mechanically activated; particle size; particle morphology (spherical or flake); metal type (Al or Al-Si); and whether the inclusion material is interacting or non-interacting with the parent metal. It was found that mechanically activated particles with an interacting inclusion material (polytetrafluoroethylene) and smaller particle sizes yielded increased blast wave strength, and more complete metal combustion. It was also found that orientation of the detonation train has a substantial effect on the completeness of combustion. While aluminum alloys are generally employed for their structural and mechanical properties, the low-level inclusion of secondary metals and metalloids may make such materials advantageous in propellant formulations and have not been fully considered. The aluminum-silicon (Al-Si) eutectic alloy was evaluated as a potential solid composite propellant fuel. Equilibrium calculations showed that Al-Si based propellants had comparable theoretical performance to equivalent aluminum based propellants, though at a typical specific impulse (ISP) reduction of roughly 2.5 seconds for most mixture ratios of interest. Interacting (polytetrafluoroethylene, PTFE) and non-interacting inclusion materials were mechanically activated (MA) with Al-Si (70/30 wt.% Al-Si/PTFE and 90/10 wt.% Al-Si/LDPE), which were shown to increase the powder reactivity. Neat and MA Al-Si powders were used in 15/71/14 wt.% (fuel additive)/(ammonium perchlorate)/binder propellant formulations. Environmentally cleaner solid composite propellants have been widely investigated as a means to reduce hydrochloric acid (HCl) formation. Past efforts to scavenge the chlorine ion have focused on replacing a portion of the chorine-containing oxidant (i.e., ammonium perchlorate) with an alkali metal nitrate. The alkali metal (e.g., Li or Na) in the nitrate reacts with the chlorine ion to form an alkali metal chloride (i.e., salt). While this technique can potentially reduce HCl formation, it also results in reduced theoretical specific impulse. Thermochemical calculations show that using aluminum-lithium (Al-Li) binary alloy can reduce HCl formation to less than 5% and increase the theoretical ISP by roughly 7 seconds compared to neat aluminum. Two solid propellants were made using 80/20 Al-Li alloy and neat aluminum as fuel additives. It was observed that the propellant combustion with neat aluminum formed large molten droplets at the surface, which is a well-known problem with aluminized propellants. In contrast, the Al-Li propellant formed an Al-Li melt-layer on the propellant surface during combustion. Droplets that were ejected from the melt-layer would typically undergo dispersive boiling or a shattering microexplosion, due to the large disparity in volatility (i.e., boiling points) between the aluminum and the lithium in the molten alloy. The halide scavenging effect of Al-Li propellants was verified using wet bomb combustion experiments. Additionally, no HCl evolution was detected using differential scanning calorimetry coupled with thermogravimetric analysis, mass spectrometry, and Fourier transform infrared absorption. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)




Son, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Aerospace engineering|Mechanical engineering|Energy

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