Rocket propellant manufactured from old newspaper

It turns out that old newsprint can be a bit explosive; at least when it’s combined with the proper ingredients. [Markus Bindhammer] worked out a way to make solid rocket propellant from newspaper. Judging from the test footage after the break the home made engines work great!

There isn’t a long list of ingredients. In addition to newspaper you’ll need some potassium chlorate (KClO3) which serves as an oxidizer, white wood glue, and PVC pipe. The KClO3 is ground with a mortar and pestle, then run through a sieve before being combined with the wood glue. This combination is painted on the newspaper which is then rolled up with a glass rod at the center. This is allowed to harden before going into the PVC. The excess is trimmed and the whole thing is baked in a convection oven at 105 C for two hours.

If this process doesn’t suit you maybe cooking up a batch of sugar-based propellant is worth a try?


  1. Peertux says:

    Looks more like a smokebomb than a rocket.

  2. jeffy says:

    Its burning in the open and not under pressure so its not going to look like s rocket. Once in a sealed combustion chamber with a nozzle its a different story.

  3. Stu says:

    Should have put some digital scales under it to measure the thrust. Or has he already?
    I have to say it doesn’t look very powerful, but it burns for a good while.

  4. aztraph says:

    I wonder how much actual thrust it produces.

  5. Only some people will die when playing with Potassium Chlorate in such an uncontrolled way. A far too dangerous material to be introduced in this manner.

  6. dattaway2 says:

    I read wikipedia’s entry on potassium chlorate and now I’m afraid to touch it…

  7. John says:

    Turns out that a light bulb from rolls royce ghost is explosive too, just add other dangerous items.

    I wont bash the hack, but maybe stop trying to fluff the headlines. A simple rolled newspaper rocket engine. Underpromise over deliver, lately had hacks dont live up to their tittles

  8. wifigod says:

    This reminds me of High School when I would sit and read for hours on end. We would build our own motors using all kinds of fuel-types (usually NH4ClO4 or KNO3 for oxidizers) and test-fire them in a DIY “thrust-ometer”. Ahh, memories. :-)

  9. mr z says:

    Don’t crush potassium chlorate in a mortar and pestle. Any organic material left over or any source of carbon, or metal not fully oxidised can make for a bad day.

  10. Chris C. says:

    Alternate titles:

    “Homemade Rocket Engine is Old News”
    “Man Swats Dog with Rolled-Up Newspaper, Loses Dog.. . and Hand”
    “Rocket Engine Explosion Not Funny, Found to Contain ‘Garfield’ Comic”

  11. John says:

    When you put a strong oxidizer on ANYTHING it can be used as a rocket. Salami rocket anyone?

    But you’re more likely to get a high explosive than a rocket. An _unstable_ high explosive.

  12. Polymath says:

    Maybe there’s salvation for the newspaper industry after all.

  13. Andy7 says:

    Burns well, though a little uneven.
    It would be interesting to see how it burns under pressure in a motor casing with nozzle. This is just a burn test at atmospheric pressure, so we can’t talk about usable thrust yet.

    One thing this might have going for it is the strength of the grain if it’s made from cured PVC. Sugar is a little brittle hence a reasonably high risk of CATO.

    Maybe try a formulation with KN to deflect some of the flames from those of us who know a little about oxidisers.

    Nice experiment, stay safe!

  14. LARRY says:

    The best resource for this kind of thing I’ve found is:

    COPYRIGHT 1960

    I used the instructions in this book as a kid in the 60′s put Rockets up several thousand feed. Some groups broke over 100,000 feet.

    The book goes into great detail on how to do things safely. It covers sugar based propellants as well as zinc/sulfur propellants in detail.

    It is long out of print but used copies show up at from time to time. I have also been told that it can be downloaded but haven’t been able to find it.



  15. Jim says:

    I’ve made rockets using something similar before. Instead of grinding and putting the oxidizer in glue, I desolve it in water (until its sedated) and put my paper in it for a night. After this you can easily mold the paper in a proper shape. Or just dry the paper as sheets and when they are dry roll them into a tube. The rockets I made fly pretty well.

    Just be warned — it’s not a toy. Even though I tried to be safe, it didn’t stop me from burning both of my hands badly. I stopped making rockets after that.

  16. George says:

    I used to make smoke bombs with potassium nitrate and sugar, melting suggar then mixing with potassium nitrate, it would form a light brownish paste, the process was simple but not always safe once it burnt from the pot :( and left my kitchen full of smoke.
    While burning it makes some pink sparks/flame and many smoke.

  17. alvaro says:

    Also, PVC pipe? in case of an explosion be ready to get shrapnel everywhere.

    • Andy7 says:

      Yeah, I’m not a great fan of PVC enclosures either. You can roll your own paper tubes that can be VERY strong. Others should check out Jimmy Yawn’s incredibly instructional videos if you’re interested.

  18. jd says:

    These days anyone seems to attempt experimental rocketry, which is good because it is fun and educational. I’d urge your to do it SAFELY though. Just because you see some twat on the internet do something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. 99.9% chance that it will work, big jackpot if you’re that other 0.1% where it goes wrong. There’s plenty of horror stories to be found about mishaps that have had terrible physical and legal consequences (burned down house, prison, loss of family). Without proper permits such as a LEUP you will be treated and charged as a basement bomber.

    If you feel the urge to attempt this, start by reading sites with GOOD information such as those by Richard Nakka or James Yawn, especially read the safety pages. There is no substitute for knowing what you are doing. Then try to reproduce their work on a small scale. Build up (small) step by (small) step. Once you’ve become a rocket propellant guru, only then start to work with unknown propellant mixtures. Always remember, the dragon bites, keep it small!

    As for Marcus’ experiment, at this stage it’s not much more than the KNO3-gummy bear experiment that you saw in physics class. Characterizing the fuel and using it in a motor, in what is essentially a controlled explosion, is the hard part. Cool to watch though.

    Use your head = keep all fingers!

  19. Tweeks says:

    Please re-port this once there’s a nozzle on it and a thrust vs time plot is available. My concern would be the ash clogging the hole and causing a pressure spike and CATO.


  20. Alan Yates says:

    Be a little careful when you put this grain into a casing, the pressure exponent of Chlorate based propellants is pretty unforgiving.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,357 other followers