Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Benny and the Jets

By Amanda Jaffe-Katz

“The result is a device that gives you more mileage with less fuel”

Prof. Benveniste (Benny) Natan of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering is improving rocket or ramjet propulsion performance with a jelly-like substance, based on gasoline. “Gel fuel is a liquid fuel to which you add a gelling agent, and you get something that looks like the Jell-O in your kitchen,” he explains. The addition of metal particles to the gel - analogous to the fruit segments added to Jell-O - leads to much better performance than regular fuel. “We’ve calculated that it’s feasible for a ramjet air-breathing engine, using gel and metal particles, to cover large distances.”

"I address the safety of gel propellants, as well as performance issues,” says Natan. “If the fuel storage tank is hit, then the fuel won’t leak because the gel forms a crust and keeps it in place. Even if it does leak, it’s at a reduced rate - so it’s a safer fuel.”

“With the gel alone, you just get the advantage of safety. For performance, you need the metal particles,” he says. Boron and aluminum are the metals of choice. “You get much more from the metals than from the regular hydrocarbon; the problem is that they sink down in a liquid fuel. But with gel, there is no sedimentation. They stay in place, like the banana stays in Jell-O.”

This, Natan maintains, is a unique solution. “It’s important from every aspect, and there is simply no additional damage to the environment. If you compare with regular hydrocarbon,” Natan explains, “the particles can give you 30 to 40 percent more energy per unit mass when they burn, and sometimes three times more per unit volume. This means you get a more compact motor and save space, and thus reduce the aerodynamic drag. The result is a device that gives you more mileage with less fuel.”

Prof. Benny Natan develops a gel fuel, which is
hydrocarbon plus metal particles, to achieve superior
performance in rocket or ramjet propulsion applications

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