Graphene — a material with applications in biomedical technology, electronics, composites, energy, and sensors — is being used to increase the burn rate of solid propellants used to fuel rockets and spacecraft.
Methods were developed for making and using compositions with solid fuel loaded on highly conductive, highly porous graphene foams for enhanced burn rates for the loaded solid fuel. Researchers maximized the catalytic effect of metal oxide additives commonly used in solid propellant to enhance decomposition. The graphene foam structures are also thermally stable, even at high temperatures, and can be reused. The developed compositions provide significantly improved burn rate and reusability.
The graphene foam works well for solid propellants because it is super-lightweight and highly porous, which means it has many holes in which scientists can pour fuel to help ignite a rocket launch. The graphene foam has a 3D, interconnected structure to allow a more efficient thermal transport pathway for heat to quickly spread and ignite the propellant.
The technology provides higher performance that is especially important in areas such as hypersonics. Tests demonstrated a burn rate enhancement of nine times the normal using functionalized graphene foam structures.
The graphene foam technology has applications for energy conversion devices and missile defense systems, along with other areas where tailoring nanomaterials for specific outcomes may be useful.