Graphene to overcome supersonic engine speed limits

US research engineers at Princeton plan to study how fuel additives made of tiny particles

of graphene can help supersonic jets fly faster and make diesel engines cleaner and more

efficient.  

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Physorg.com reports that to create the graphene particles, researchers will remove carbon dioxide molecules from graphite oxide which leaves a irregular bond pattern that creates a buckle in the otherwise flat graphene molecule. This ridge prevents the graphene molecule from folding into ball.

The interdisciplinary team of scientists led by Princeton engineers has been awarded a $3 million grant to study such fuel additives made of tiny particles known as nanocatalysts made up of snippets of molecular sheets carbon only a few Angstroms thick.

These particles have been shown to help fuels ignite and burn faster, a quality that could lead to the next generation of combustion engines.

For supersonc aircraft to travel even faster, engines must operate at faster speeds and fuel must move through them more rapidly, but the ignition time and burn rate of current jet fuels limits the speed of the engines.

“Right now we don’t know what actual reactions enhance the combustion rates when the particles are added to fuels,” said Ilhan Aksay, a professor of chemical engineering at Princeton and the lead investigator on the project. “If we understand it further, we can make it more effective.”

The funding, which comes from the Air Force as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Research Program, will be used to tackle a fundamental barrier to designing faster supersonic aircraft.

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