Researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden report the discovery of trinitramid—N(NO2)3—a new molecule in the nitrogen oxide group that may become a component in future rocket fuel. This fuel could be 20-30% more efficient in comparison with the best rocket fuels we have today.
A paper on their work has been accepted for publication in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
A rule of thumb is that for every ten-percent increase in efficiency for rocket fuel, the payload of the rocket can double. What’s more, the molecule consists only of nitrogen and oxygen, which would make the rocket fuel environmentally friendly. This is more than can be said of today’s solid rocket fuels, which entail the emission of the equivalent of 550 tons of concentrated hydrochloric acid for each launch of the space shuttle.—Tore Brinck, professor of physical chemistry at KTH
|Trinitramid. Click to enlarge.|
It was during work to find an alternative to today’s solid rocket fuel that the researchers found the new molecule. The team was studying the breakdown of another compound using quantum chemistry computations when they understood that the new molecule trinitramid—the largest of the nitrogen oxides—could be stable.
Brinck and colleagues Martin Rahm, Sergey Dvinshikh and Professor Istvan Furó have now shown how the molecule can be produced and analyzed. The scientists have also managed to produce enough of the compound in a test tube for it to be detectable.
It remains to be seen how stable the molecule is in a solid form.—Tore Brinck
Martin Rahm, Sergey V. Dvinskikh, István Furó, Tore Brinck. Experimental Detection of Trinitramide, N(NO2)3. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, accepted paper