WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Oct. 8 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they are developing a new type of ‘green’ rocket propellant that consists of a frozen mixture of water and “nanoscale aluminum” powder.
The aluminum-ice, or so-called Alice, propellant is described as being more environmentally friendly than conventional propellants and could be manufactured on the moon, Mars or other water-bearing bodies.
Purdue University Associate Professor Steven Son said the Alice propellant might be used to launch rockets into orbit and for long-distance space missions, as well as generating hydrogen for fuel cells.
Purdue is working with NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Pennsylvania State University to develop Alice.
Assistant Professor Timothee Pourpoint said the tiny size of the aluminum particles, which have a diameter of about 80 nanometers, is key to the propellant’s performance.
“It is considered a green propellant, producing essentially hydrogen gas and aluminum oxide,” Pourpoint said. “Alice might one day replace some liquid or solid propellants, and, when perfected, might have a higher performance than conventional propellants. “It’s also extremely safe while frozen because it’s difficult to accidentally ignite.”
Research findings were presented during the summer at a conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and will be published next year in the conference proceedings.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International