New Hybrid Energy Method Could Fuel the Future of Rockets, Spacecraft for Exploration

Purdue University researchers have developed a new propellant formulation method to use graphene foams to power spacecraft. (Stock photo)

Purdue University researchers have developed a new propellant formulation method to use graphene foams to power spacecraft. (Stock photo)

May 7, 2019 | Source: Purdue, Chris Adam, 9 April 2019

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Graphene, a new material with applications in biomedical technology, electronics, composites, energy, and sensors, may soon help send rockets to space.

A new propellant formulation method to use graphene foams – material used in electronics, optics, and energy devices – to power spacecraft is being developed in Purdue University’s Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, which is the largest academic propulsion lab in the world. The research is showing success at an increasing burn rate of solid propellants that are used to fuel rockets and spacecraft.

“Our propulsion and physics researchers came together to focus on a material that has not previously been used in rocket propulsion, and it is demonstrating strong results,” said Li Qiao, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics in Purdue’s College of Engineering.

The research team, led by Qiao, developed methods of making and using compositions with solid fuel loaded on highly conductive, highly porous graphene foams for enhanced burn rates for the loaded solid fuel. They wanted to maximize the catalytic effect of metal oxide additives commonly used in solid propellant to enhance decomposition.

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