APPLICATIONS OF CATALYSIS TO PROPULSION. THE OBJECTIVE AND THE CHALLENGES
Dr. Charles Kappenstein
Laboratory of Catalysis
Group of Inorganic Chemistry
University of Poitiers (France)
Friday, November 7, 2003, 3:15 p.m.
Ben Bandy Conference Room
Center for Applied Energy Research
The use of catalysis in the field of propulsion began just before WWII in Germany with the catalytic decomposition of H2O2 through liquid injection of permanganate salts. After WWII, different programs associated kerosene with H2O2 and silver screen catalyst (bipropellant propulsion). The beginning of the space programs leads to the replacement of H2O2 by the more stable hydrazine N2H4 as monopropellant, using Ir/Al2O3. The toxicity of hydrazine leads to the research for possible non toxic or "green monopropellants" substitutes. The currently studied substitutes are energetic aqueous ionic mixtures containing an oxidizer (ex. HAN or hydroxylammonium nitrate [NH3OH]+[NO3]-) and a fuel (ex. glycine, methanol) and the challenge is to find a catalyst able to trigger the decomposition of the aqueous blend at room temperature and stable a very high temperature (1400 °C). Other candidates for hydrazine substitutes have also been proposed: 98 % H2O2, N2O. A survey on the current research activities and results will be given as well as more prospective applications of catalysis (Scramjet, pulse detonating engine).