Effects of Size and Prestressing of Aluminum Particles on the Oxidation of Levitated exo-Tetrahydrodicyclopentadiene Droplets

Michael Lucas, Stephen J. Brotton, Ahreum Min, Connor Woodruff, Michelle L. Pantoya, Ralf I. Kaiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Addition of high-energy-density materials such as aluminum (Al) microparticles or nanoparticles to liquid propellants potentially improves performance of the fuel. We report on the effects of untreated, prestressed, and superquenched aluminum particles with diameters of 100 nm, 250 nm, 500 nm, 1.6 μm, and 8.8 μm on the combustion of JP-10 droplets acoustically levitated in an oxygen-argon atmosphere. Ignition was initiated by a carbon dioxide laser, and the resulting oxidation processes were traced by Raman, Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR), and ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis) spectroscopies together with high-speed optical and IR thermal-imaging cameras. The UV-vis emission spectra reveal that the key reactive radical intermediates hydroxyl (OH), methylidyne (CH), dicarbon (C2), aluminum monoxide (AlO), and aluminum monohydride (AlH) were formed in addition to atomic aluminum (Al) and the final oxidation products of JP-10, namely, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The Al particles facilitated ignition of the JP-10 droplets and produced higher temperatures in the combustion process of up to typically 2600 K. The effect of the Al particles on the ignition and maximum flame temperatures increased as the diameters reduced. The different stress treatments did not produce observable changes for the ignition or combustion of the droplets, which indicates that the liquid propellant was not significantly affected by manipulating the mechanical properties of the fuel particle additive. The initiation and enhancement of the combustion were a consequence of forming highly reactive atomic oxygen (O) and aluminum monoxide (AlO) radicals in the reaction of aluminum atoms with molecular oxygen in the gas phase. These radicals initiate the degradation of JP-10 via atomic hydrogen abstraction forming the hydroxyl (OH) and aluminum hydroxide (AlOH) radicals in reactions which are mainly exothermic by up to 68 kJ mol-1. In contrast, hydrogen abstractions from JP-10 by molecular oxygen or atomic aluminum are strongly endothermic by up to 236 kJ mol-1, thus making these reactions less competitive. The generation of C10H15 hydrocarbon radicals from the JP-10 initiates successive oxidations and chain reactions with molecular oxygen leading eventually to carbon dioxide and water. These combined experimental results provide insight into how aluminum particles facilitate the oxidation and reaction mechanisms of JP-10 droplets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1489-1507
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 27 2020


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