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Aluminum-water reactions have been proposed and studied for several decades for underwater propulsion systems and applications requiring hydrogen generation. Aluminum and water have also been proposed as a frozen propellant, and there have been proposals for other refrigerated propellants that could be mixed, frozen in situ, and used as solid propellants. However, little work has been done to determine the feasibility of these concepts. With the recent availability of nanoscale aluminum, a simple binary formulation with water is now feasible. Nanosized aluminum has a lower ignition temperature than micronsized aluminum particles, partly due to its high surface area, and burning times are much faster than micron aluminum. Frozen nanoscale aluminum and water mixtures are stable, as well as insensitive to electrostatic discharge, impact, and shock. Here we report a study of the feasibility of an nAl-ice propellant in small-scale rocket experiments. The focus here is not to develop an optimized propellant; however improved formulations are possible. Several static motor experiments have been conducted, including using a flight-weight casing. The flight weight casing was used in the first sounding rocket test of an aluminum-ice propellant, establishing a proof of concept for simple propellant mixtures making use of nanoscale particles.


Copyright © 2012 Timothee L. Pourpoint et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.