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Topic: Fuel for U.S. Space program  (Read 10709 times)

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integral0

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Fuel for U.S. Space program
« on: April 12, 2004, 07:11:42 PM »
Diborance (B2H6) is a highly reactive boron hydrive, which was once considered a possible rocket fuel for the U.S. space program.  

2B(s) + 3H2(g) ---> B2H6(g)  ?H = +36 kJ

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I was wondering why this would even be considered since its endothermic in nature.  Am I missing something important about endothermic reactions in this system?
« Last Edit: April 14, 2004, 03:30:59 AM by integral0 »

Offline Mitch

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Re:Fuel for U.S. Space program
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2004, 08:15:26 PM »
I believe the Boron hydride is the reactive species they are referring too. If they did make rockets from it, it would be the boron hydride that supplied the power.
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Corvettaholic

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Re:Fuel for U.S. Space program
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2004, 05:09:08 PM »
How would you go about synthesizing something like that? I'm fairly new to chemistry, but I want to try as much stuff as I can. I'm also getting into rocketry, so I'd love to play with new ideas. As I understand reactions, you need to add energy to "kick-off" the reaction. So do I just stick a bunch of boron and hydrogen together in the proper ratios, then add heat?

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Re:Fuel for U.S. Space program
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2004, 05:28:16 PM »
Boron is pretty toxix stuff(or was that borene?). Anyways, it wouldn't be a good idea to try to make this fuel. I'm sure there are much better fuels for rockets out there.
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Offline hmx9123

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Re:Fuel for U.S. Space program
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2004, 06:14:52 PM »
Diborane is the correct chemical.  You're looking at the manufacture of diborane, not the combustion of it.  The combustion of diborane is very exothermic and is what the government wanted to use back in the 50s and 60s.  The problems with it were:

1. Diborane extremely toxic--more than HCN (hydrogen cyanide--the stuff they use to kill inmates in the gas chamber).

2. It explodes on contact with oxygen and has wide lower and upper explosive limits in air, making it very dangerous to work with.

3. It is pyrophoric--meaning it bursts into flame on contact with moisture in the air.

4. When it burns, it leaves behind solid boic acid and other oxides of boron, which clog the rocket nozzle.

To affect complete combusion the military tried adding fluorine to diborane to oxidize it all the way so no solids were formed, but this did not work well, and the project was abandoned.  For many years afterword, boranes of all types were easy to get as surplus, but are no longer easy to come by.

I did a lot of work with diborane as an undergrad and have seen the beautiful (and scary) green flame that comes from the combustion of diborane.  It is the second most energetic fuel by weight (after hydrogen) and was sought to be exploited by the government because of this.

As for making it, I won't detail that here because of the dangers involved and also because you probably can't get the chemicals.  If you can and you really need to make this stuff for legit research purposes, then you'll know where to look up how to make it (not that hard to do).

I do like the amatuer rocket and pyro scene, but diborane is not for the faint of heart.  That stuff will take you out.  We used to call it 'death chemistry' only half-jokingly.

For some great stories about the government's rocket program, look up a book called "The Green Flame".  It's written by a guy who used to work in the chemical industry producing boranes in the 1950's and is an incredible read.  I think it's OOP, but you might still be able to find it in certain places.

Let me know if you want some more info on the amatuer rocketry stuff.

Corvettaholic

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Re:Fuel for U.S. Space program
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2004, 06:38:51 PM »
Good stuff to know. Well, that stuff is right out then. I've played with the model rocket kits that are readily available, but I gotten kind of bored of those. What I really want to try is building my own rocket engine for a model rocket. Little one of course, until I figure out what I'm doing. Got any good links for stuff like that? I'm going to be building this thing in my garage, and I have no desire to blow up my house, or launch my car into orbit or anything.

integral0

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Re:Fuel for U.S. Space program
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2004, 03:32:25 AM »
sorry people about my previous post, I misspelled Diborane and hydride.  I don't know how though??? Sorry for the confusion.

Thanks hmx for answering my "endothermic" question.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2004, 03:36:44 AM by integral0 »

Offline hmx9123

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Re:Fuel for U.S. Space program
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2004, 05:02:31 AM »
integral0--no problems. :)

Corvettaholic--
  If you want some information on amateur rocketry, take a look at rec.pyrotechnics on the Google newsgroups.  Search for 'nickel rockets', 'black powder rockets', and 'rockets' in general.  That will get you started.  If you get into the hobby and want some more professional stuff, let me know, and I'll see what I can do about getting you into a semi-professional private newsgroup.

Corvettaholic

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Re:Fuel for U.S. Space program
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2004, 07:55:58 PM »
Awesome, I got plenty of free time at work (like right now), so I'll begin educating myself on that stuff too. Once I get back from my may military field trip, I'll start playing with some stuff out in the sand dunes.

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