Plenary: Mr. Jeff Greason

High Energy Density Materials and their Implications for Space Access and Propulsion: the case for Polymeric Nitrogen

HEDM (High Energy Density Materials) is an important field of research as far as space access and development are concerned: better rockets are an enabling technology for more demanding missions, and thus there is an important drive towards higher-impulse rocket propellant development. The extremely strong triple bonding behavior of Nitrogen makes its polymeric forms a natural choice in the quest for better propellants, and thus we endeavor to study the behavior of colloidal mixtures of cubic-gauche Nitrogen (cg-N) within selected carrier fluids.

Simulation and evaluation of perspective high-density, high-impulse rocket propellants composed of solid cg-N nanoflakes within a carrier fluid, whose properties can be tailored depending on performance and storage requirements.

Several promising candidates have been found, featuring both high ponderal specific impulse, in the 350 s – 400 s range in vacuo, as well as extremely high densities, around 2000 kg/m3. The HEDM employed, cg-N, is satisfactorily stable within the temperature range of interest, and there are both confirmed (plasma vapor deposition) and speculative-but-promising (plasma arc discharge in liquid Nitrogen) roadways to its synthesis in macroscopic quantities.

Outlined propellants are extremely promising for high-impulse applications, and their predicted long term storability makes them an interesting choice for course-correction and attitude control in interstellar precursor missions. If costs to the synthesis of cg-N were to be brought down, they would also be extremely useful tools for orbital lift.