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International Journal of Aerospace Engineering
Volume 2012, Article ID 874076, 11 pages
Research Article

Feasibility Study and Demonstration of an Aluminum and Ice Solid Propellant

School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Purdue University, 500 Allison Road, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA

Received 11 March 2012; Accepted 25 May 2012

Academic Editor: Valsalayam Sanal Kumar

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.


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 micron-sized 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.