If there’s a chemical with a cooler name than “fuming nitric acid,” we can’t think of it. Nearly pure nitric acid is useful stuff, especially if you’re in the business of making rocket fuels and explosives. But the low-end nitric acid commonly available tops out at about 68% pure, so if you want the good stuff, you’ll have to synthesize fuming nitric acid yourself. (And by “good stuff”, we mean be very careful with the resulting product.)
Fuming nitric acid comes in two colors – red fuming nitric acid (RFNA), which is about 90% pure and has some dissolved nitrogen oxides, giving it its reddish-brown color. White fuming nitric acid (WFNA) is the good stuff — more than 99% pure. Either one is rough stuff to work with — you don’t want to wear latex or nitrile gloves while using it. It’s not clear what [BarsMonster] needs the WFNA for, although he does mention etching some ICs. The synthesis is pretty straightforward, if a bit dangerous. An excess of sulfuric acid is added to potassium nitrate, and more or less pure nitric acid is distilled away from the resulting potassium sulfate. Careful temperature control is important, and [BarsMonster] seems to have gotten a good yield despite running out of ice.
We don’t feature too many straight chemistry hacks around here, but this one seemed gnarly enough to be interesting. We did have a Hackaday Prize entry a while back on improvements to the Haber process for producing ammonia, which curiously is the feedstock for commercial nitric acid production processes.
Continue reading “Anyone Need a Little Fuming Nitric Acid?”
If you’d like to risk blowing your fingers off for a good cause this week, look no further than [M. Bindhammer]’s search for an eco-friendly rocket fuel. [M. Bindhammer] predicts the increasing use of solid rocket boosters in the future. We’re into that. For now, rocket launches are so few and far between that the pollution doesn’t add up, but when we’re shipping consumer electronics to the moon and back twice a day, we might have a problem.
The most common solid rocket fuel emits chlorine gas into the atmosphere when burned. [Bindhammer] is exploring safe ways to manufacture a eutectically balanced and stabilized fuel compromised of sugar or sugar-alcohol, and potassium nitrate. If you watch home chemistry videos for fun on the weekend like us, [Bindhammer] goes through all his thinking, and even spells out the process for duplicating his fuel safely in a lab.
He’s done a lot of work. The resulting fuel is stable, can be liquid or solid. It has a high ignition temperature, but as you can see in the video after the break. Once ignited. It goes off like rocket fuel.
Continue reading “Eco Friendly Space-Fuel”
[Adric Menning] has an unfortunate allergy. He’s allergic to chocolate. Instead of eating the stuff, he’s using it to build model rocket engines. The project stems from the Quelab Hackerspace’s chocolate hacking challenge which spawned a number of interesting hacks. [Adric’s] doesn’t use pure chocolate (an experiment with a Hershey’s bar was a bust) but manages to ignite using a Milky Way bar.
This is not as unorthodox as you might think. Sugar and potassium nitrate have long been used to create solid rocket propellant. The chocolate version is swapping out plain old sugar for the candy bar. It was chopped into 10 gram chunks to make proportion calculations easier later on. The chunks go into the freezer to make them easier to grind using a mortar and pestle. Once it’s a somewhat chunk-free powder he mixes it with the potassium nitrate which previously had its own trip through the grinder. After being packed into a chunk of PVC pipe and fitted with an exhaust nozzle the engine is ready to go.
You can check out the test-fire video after the break. There’s a burn restriction in his area due to drought so this is just an engine test and not an actual rocket launch.
Continue reading “Chocolate as rocket fuel”
[KoD] and [Navic] are building solid propellant motors using sugar and potassium nitrate. They cook up the two ingredients along with water and a bonding agent. They find that corn syrup is particularly good for bonding and that cooking the strange brew is more of an artform than science. Either way, the video after the break is proof of the dangers involved in this hobby. Testing the engine thrust with a bathroom scale ends badly for the scale.
There is something satisfying about the ingenuity that goes into the materials. For a casing they’re using PVC pipe, and forming a cone to focus the thrust by using a what amounts to plumber’s epoxy putty. The capping agent for the finished motor is ground up kitty litter.
This is an interesting read, but for now we’re going to stick to water rockets.
Continue reading “Homemade solid propellant rocket motors”