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The Ultimate Water-Powered Rocket! Answered

NASA and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) have launched a water-powered rocket 1300 feet into the atmosphere!

The rocket was actually propelled by a frozen mixture of "nanoscale aluminium" (isn't that "dust"?) and water, pumped in at the consistency of toothpaste and then frozen in place. The propellant is known as ALICE (aluminium and ice - convenient, eh?)

Earlier this month, the collaborative team, Drs. Steven F. Son and Tim Pourpoint of Purdue, Rich Yetter and Grant Risha of Penn State, Vigor Yang of Georgia Tech, Harold Bell and Frank Bauer of NASA, and Mitat Birkan and Thomas Russell of AFOSR watched as the rocket soared high into the sky, to 1300 feet near Purdue University.

ALICE is generating excitement among the researchers because it has the potential to replace some liquid or solid propellants. It is a promising propellant energetically. Theoretically, when it is optimized, it could have a higher performance than a conventional propellant.

In addition, because of the abundance and easy handling of the raw materials, ALICE could potentially become the propellant of choice for missions leaving other planets, since it could be (relatively) easy to manufacture from local raw materials and far easier to store than cryogenic fuels.



Story from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base via Rocket Dungeon.
Video found by Jeff-O

Discussions

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kicker109
kicker109

10 years ago

Do you reckon i would be aloud to use this technology and make one of my own?

By the way, I'm not a stupid kid!
I have a lab...

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 10 years ago

I don't see why not - it will be difficult to produce the dust, and to stop it reacting with the water as you freeze it, but you can give it a go.

Just remember to document everything, take plenty of photos of the Make and videos of the tests and launches.


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kicker109
kicker109

Reply 10 years ago

I thought it was just aluminium powder.
Ahh well... I have a ball mill I can make it finer if i need to.

Would you think I would need to alert the local fire dept. about this? (incase they find it a bit suspicous)

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 10 years ago

Probably - aluminium dust is highly flammable, potentially explosive.

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kicker109
kicker109

Reply 10 years ago

That could be BAD!

I was going to pack kitty-litter tightly on the end as a cap and might need to hand drill a hole in the end.

How would i get the parachute to deploy if it doesn't have an ejection charge?...or if i didn't put one in it?

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 10 years ago

Pass...

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kicker109
kicker109

Reply 10 years ago

Ahh well, Thanks for your help.
I have begun production today!
I have the Rocket Shaft, Fins, and Rocket Motor Housing complete.
I still have the Nose Cone, and the Propelant Mixture to go.

THIS IS FUN!

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kicker109
kicker109

Reply 10 years ago

Also if I used a drill to drill out the centre of the engine, would it ignite?
Could I use Estes rocket igniters?
(I'm not making it that large... about 24" long)

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 10 years ago

I think you're going to have to follow the links in the article above to find people who know more about this stuff than me.

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oscarthompson
oscarthompson

10 years ago

Thats amazing, im surprised its not classified!

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lemonie
lemonie

11 years ago

Interesting stuff, although strictly speaking there's more than just water propelling it.
I found this so far - do you have any more reading?

L

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seandogue
seandogue

Reply 11 years ago

you're right...the aluminum is part of the mass transfer equation.

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lemonie
lemonie

Reply 11 years ago

It's essentially "fuel". L

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 11 years ago

No, and it would cost $25 to read the rest of that PDF.

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lemonie
lemonie

Reply 11 years ago

Yes, unless your employer has a subscription... L

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kelseymh
kelseymh

11 years ago

Hey, MacGuyver could make this out of a broken Etch-A-Sketch and a bottle of Dasani. Sweet.

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 11 years ago

Compared to traditional solid-fuel rockets, it is very green.

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Matt21497
Matt21497

Reply 11 years ago

are there still pollutants tho

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 11 years ago

I think the remains are aluminium oxide (the form in which aluminium is found in nature) and water (the aluminium splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen, reacts with the oxygen and then the remaining hydrogen reacts with oxygen from the air (if it is not in vacuum).

(Or aluminium hydroxide and water, when the aluminium reacts with the water, releasing hydrogen, which again reacts with any present oxygen).

I'm not sure which it is, as thenano-scale-ness of the aluminium, plus the energetic situation, do odd things to the chemistry.

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Matt21497
Matt21497

Reply 11 years ago

Alright by why does it make fire?

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seandogue
seandogue

Reply 11 years ago

rapid oxidation = fire

or

fire = rapid oxidation

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 11 years ago

It is an energetic reaction - there is lots of energy released.

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The Ideanator
The Ideanator

11 years ago

Wow, after the ALICE rocket started moving, it seemed way faster then the conventional motor.

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jeff-o
jeff-o

11 years ago

Here's a video explaining the technology a bit better: LINK

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lemonie
lemonie

Reply 11 years ago

Good find. L

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 11 years ago

Thanks - I embedded it.

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Killer~SafeCracker
Killer~SafeCracker

11 years ago

Wow this so beats the water bottle rocket we are going to build.