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High Energy Density Additives for Hybrid Fuel Rockets to Improve Performance and Enhance Safety
Principal Investigator: Richard Jaffe

Current hybrid-fuel rockets have limited application because of limitations of fuel performance. These hybrid fuel rockets use solid paraffin as the fuel base and add aluminum particles to increase the burn rate. However, the aluminum additive causes the paraffin to break apart during burning. Breakthroughs in fuel burn rate and physical properties are needed if hybrid rockets are to achieve their potential.

A novel high-strain hydrocarbon, called ivyane, has recently been synthesized and shown to have the highest strain energy of any hydrocarbon made to date. Ivyane-paraffin blend should have a faster burn rate, because ivyane has higher energy density. Adding ivyane to paraffin should result in improved performance compared to adding aluminum particles. Strained hydrocarbon additives like ivyane can be used to boost the performance of hybrid rockets by enhancing burn rate and reducing fragmentation of paraffin fuel, increasing the effectiveness of hybrid rockets while maintaining their inherent safety. This approach could make hybrid rocket technology cost-effective for a wider range of space applications.

The goal of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of preparing ivyane-paraffin blends and characterizing their physical and mechanical properties. This project has the following specific goals:

  • Determine the limit of solubility of ivyane in paraffinic hydrocarbons
  • Determine density and melting temperature of ivyane-paraffin blends
  • Determine effect of ivyane additive on paraffin burn rate
  • Overall goal is to develop an improved fuel for hybrid rocket propulsion.