This picture illustrates the combustion of fuel derived form the space shuttle solid-rocket motor, blended with coal. The brightest streaks are aluminum particles (aluminum is used in such motors to increase the specific thrust). The orange streaks are either coal or propellant binder particles. Here they are colliding on a temperature-regulated probe that simulates a superheated probe in a commercial power plant. The red line is a helium-neon laser beam that is used to measure the particle's size and velocity as they approach the tube.
Large amounts of excess energetic material such as rocket fuel and high explosives are generated around the world as a consequence of demilitarization and off-specification production. Very little of this material is recyclable since most contain harmful substances like asbestos or chlorine. It is difficult to burn or landfill these materials without creating significant environmental hazards.
Combustion of energetic materials would allow the energy to be harnessed and used as fuel. It would also decrease the environmental hazards and pollution associated with disposing of these materials.
The Multifuel Combustor is dealing with the problems of energetic material combustion, mainly NOx production, aluminum combustion behavior, and the fate of asbestos. Through experimentation, the MFC is seeking to optimize the use of energetic material as significant fuel sources.
Sponsors: Department of Energy: Office of Defense Programs
Department of Defense