US Air Force researchers develop 'green' rocket fuel

Researchers at the Edwards Air Force Base research lab in the US have developed a hydrogen-rich environment-friendly rocket propellant that self-ignites.

The fuel, which uses an ionic liquid that is flammable when comes into contact with hydrogen peroxide, is non-corrosive and at the same time environment friendly, according to the researchers.

Writing in the journal Angewandte Chemie, Stefan Schneider and his associates at the Air Force Laboratory claim the special hydrogen-rich ionic liquids self-ignite in the presence of hydrogen peroxide.

The new fuel will help avoid the potential dangers of  hydrazine, the current rocket fuel, and its oxidising agent Dinitrogen tetroxide and nitric acid, which are both toxic and highly volatile.

Hydrazine delivers high performance, can be stored for a relatively long time and spontaneously ignites upon contact with an oxidizing agent or a suitable catalyst. But the oxidizing agents like dinitrogen tetroxide or nitric acid used to ignite rocket fuels are also dangerous.

Dinitrogen tetroxide is less corrosive than nitric acid, but it is toxic and highly volatile.