Feeds

US Army working on 'exploding marmalade' missile tech

You literally don't have to be a rocket scientist

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

US military-funded rocket scientists have turned to food boffins and agricultural engineers for help in their effort to produce exploding marmalade, intended to fuel radical new missiles and spacecraft of the future.

No, really. According to boffins at Purdue Uni in Indiana, there would be many advantages to rocket fuel with the consistency of marmalade - though it needs to be smooth, not chunky.

This is because liquid fuels are very difficult to contain safely, leading to massive handling and storage problems which have seen them mainly used on large rockets. On the other hand, relatively safe and simple solid-fuelled jobs have their disadvantages too. In particular, once you light a solid rocket you can't turn it off or even throttle it up and down. It's going to burn, hopefully at the designed thrust, until all the fuel is gone.

But gel fuels, described as "kind of like orange marmalade without the rind" - apart from being "quite hazardous and reactive", ie basically explosive - by Purdue astronautics prof Stephen Heister, could bridge the gap. They would still have plenty of oof, with "a little more energy than the solid propellants", according to Heister.

But they wouldn't leak and/or corrode tanks and pipework nearly as badly as current liquids. And the potential would be there to throttle an exploding-marmalade rocket up and down, or turn it off for a bit with fuel still remaining.

"You can turn the engine on and off, you can coast, go fast or slow," says the Purdue astro prof. "You have much greater control, which means more range".

Heister and his rocket-scientist chums, however, don't know enough about the way marmaladey-style gel substances behave when squirted through nozzles and mixed with other chemicals. That's where the food and agriculture boffins come in. They're well accustomed to the problems of pumping jam, marmalade, pureed spuds, Dream Topping etc through advanced processing machinery by the thousands of tons; or the handling of all those other bits of animals which get turned into things like tallow, lard, soap, candles, biodiesel, chemical feedstocks etc.

"This is a very multidisciplinary project," says Heister.

The work is funded by the US Army, who hope to see massive performance gains one day by replacing their mostly solid-fuelled missiles with marmalade gel-rockets.

There's more from Purdue here. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?