(Remix to) Ignition

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(Remix to) Ignition

[This is an update from the Ignitor Senior Design team.]

Our Team

Hello everyone! We’re a team of four dedicated and driven individuals trying to make this rocket as reusable and as efficient as possible by improving the injection and ignition system.

Lucas is both the Team Lead and Propulsion Specialist. Kenneth’s focus is CAD Specialist and the Design Lead. Rachel is the Manufacturing Specialist, Outreach Coordinator, and Team Manager. Nicholas specializes as Propulsion and Materials Specialist.

You might be asking yourself, “Why did you choose this crazy hard project over some much easier ones?” For us, the answer is easy: We all have passion for space and rocketry, and we all wanted to do something more with our senior design project.

We believe this project provides one of the best ways for us to make an impact, and we’re excited to tell you how we plan to do just that.

Our Goal

Our goal is simple: To incorporate an ignitor into the rocket’s injector. The idea may be simple, but there is some complexity in integrating the ignitor into the rocket.

We also want the ignitor to be reusable. Long-time readers of the blog will know how the first ignitor worked. Every time the ignitor was used, it was consumed. This means a costly reprint every time we ignite the rocket. The ignitor integration team plans to change this and reduce impediments to getting our rocket into the air.

Our Considerations

Briefly, here are a few designs which didn’t make it past the first design stage. Still, they are interesting solutions to the problem at hand.

Laser ignition, while very cool sounding, was impractical for what we were looking for. Lasers are delicate and difficult to work with. Minimum ignition energy also works differently with lasers, since ignition comes not from a spark but instead from exciting the fuel until it ignites.

Image result for laser ignition
A depiction of laser-assisted ignition. (Source: Nature)

We’re working with pretty extreme conditions and would need to have a powerful laser to actually achieve ignition. The time and research costs would be too high, so we need to do something simpler.

We turned to pure chemistry. The image below shows triethylaluminum, an extremely unstable compound which will spontaneously burn when exposed to oxygen. It’s very difficult to work with, but it would certainly simplify design.

Triethylaluminum, a volatile, hypergolic chemical. (Source: Wikipedia.)

Maybe not so “simple,” though. The bonds between the ethyl groups readily and explosively break down in contact with oxygen. We ruled this out due to the red tape and safety concerns of working with such a volatile compound.

Our next blog will outline our current plan.

Dakota

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