October 1, 2017.
Recently there has been a push toward green monopropellants in rocket thrusters. The leading green monopropellant is AF-M315E. Its high stability, low toxicity, and ability to be stored for long periods of time in low temperatures without freezing gives it an advantage over the current hydrazine systems. Because testing the new monopropellant on thrusters would create an enormous cost, the Air Force Research Laboratories has created micro-reactors to simulate thruster firing. A 10 second lifespan micro-reactor has been completed and was used to test the reactivity between fuel and catalyst. Now there is an effort to complete a 10 min lifespan micro-reactor that will look at internal diagnostics. One aspect being looked at is degradation of catalyst over time. A digital microscope will be used to capture images of the catalyst before and after firing. From those images, a program is being written to look at images of catalyst grains and extract the shape and size of each grain. This can help to determine what happens to the catalyst in the firing process.
Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)
The 2017 STEM Teacher and Researcher Program and this project have been made possible through support from Chevron (www.chevron.com), the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (www.marinesanctuary.org), the California State University Office of the Chancellor, and California Polytechnic State University, in partnership with Air Force Research Laboratory.