Podcast – Boron-based Missiles
Boron-based missiles: Welcome back to the Borates Today podcast. Each week we cover news on boron and borates that are relevant to the industry and timely with a range of topics, including the latest industry news; we answer questions about the key players in the sector.
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Today, we will look at how China’s scientists are developing a boron-inside missile that could change how we think about warfare.
Boron is a highly reactive element that reacts violently with air and water liberating a tremendous amount of heat. It is widely used in propellants, ranging from jet liquid fuels to solid nanotube fuel sources for hypersonic rocket engines.
According to a recent study published in the September 22 issue of the journal, Solid Rocket Technology in China, an expert team from Changsha Airspace Science and Engineering College detailed their plan for developing boron-based rocket engines that could one-day power China’s missiles. This development came after the United States air force conducted similar studies back in the 1950s that could enhance the strength of its supersonic bombers.
The US military had been looking for a better fuel than conventional aviation fuel, which is made from fossil fuels and contains hydrogen. The problem is that these hydrocarbons don’t generate enough energy per unit, even though they’re easier to regulate due to carbon-based civilian gasoline packs bound together.
They did not even fulfill the military’s demand for supersonic jets capable of flying halfway around the world. As a result, American engineers chose boron and introduced a new family of fuels focused on hydro-boron substances. boranes or zip fuels to improve upon the existing jet engine technology.
Due to their energy, these fuels were very appealing at first. They were designed to be applied with the strategic bomber long range. Interceptors and BOMARC missiles. They were also thought to be able to transform the existing jet engines for burning boranes.. However, the project was quietly dropped in 1959 since ignited boron is difficult to control and creates debris layers that interfere with rocket effectiveness. Also eight volunteers bled to death during accidents involving zip energy usage.
However, recently the race to develop hypersonic missiles has reawakened interest in boron. Last year, china’s activities were directed at air-breathing scramjet propellers that use a solid fuel containing nanoparticles of borane to propel missiles to speeds of five Mach or higher.
The United States is also developing boron-based fuels. The US Navy sponsored initiatives last year for a new research project to discover a boron form or a boron-based chemical pathway that finally led to the borane incorporation in energetic substances, Particularly solid and liquid fuels. Researchers have found that the allotropes may overcome issues including incomplete, combustion and toxicity in boron-based fuels.
The same element allotropes can have drastically different characteristics. For example, diamond and graphite, are carbon allotropes. The idea is that combining a new boron allotrope with another chemical substance could result in an efficient non-toxic fuel.
The United States researchers are also investigating the potential for boron usage in hypersonic aircraft. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are currently used in specific aircraft frameworks since they can resist high temperatures when an aircraft moves at high speeds.
But NASA and Binghamton University engineers released a research paper in 2017, sponsored by the US Navy, and discovered that a boron and nitrogen combination could develop nanotubes for aircraft structures that can travel at the speed of 6,400 kilometers an hour or 4,000 miles per hour.
While carbon nanotubes can survive temperatures as high as 450 degrees centigrade, boron nitride nanotubes can survive up to 900 degrees centigrade.
Furthermore, BNNTs are lighter and more durable than CNTs and have high tensile strength, chemical stability, and thermal stability, making them perfect for supersonic or hypersonic jet structures.
A Changsha, China-based research team has developed a boron-powered Ram jet engine that could operate in the air and underwater. This is surprising because most engines are intended to operate solely on airplane fuel.
Because of the high water reactivity, researchers generally prefer aluminum or magnesium as propellants for super-cavitation torpedoes.
Researcher Lee and his team found an effective way to keep the boron’s burn efficiency in various environments by modifying some components, such as intake valves or exhaust nozzles.
As the team continued researching and developing, they decided to increase the boron percentage in the fuel. This was done to achieve a higher level of thrust than could be achieved with aluminum in water.
However, this decision also brought challenges regarding mass manufacturing, combustion, and ignition control. These challenges can be addressed by adjusting the boron particles, enhancing the production process, and researching grain mass properties.
Boron-based fuels offer many advantages over traditional fuels. But one significant challenge is controlling the burning process. This can be difficult to regulate because boron powder acts when implanted into the combustors.
This poses a risk to countries such as China, which highly depends on biofuels in mass-produced weapons systems. Most of China’s boron ore deposits come from outside the country, especially in the United States. This dependence could cause significant issues as the supply is interrupted.
China’s boron-powered supersonic missile is intended to fly like a commercial plane and swim in the ocean as a torpedo. This would give it a much greater range and speed than any previous torpedo. The implications of this technology are enormous, and it could potentially transform the way we fight wars.
According to the article in September 2022 in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the 5-meter-long or 16.4-foot missile would have up to 200 kilometers or 124 miles range and could travel at two and a half times the speed of sound at almost 10,000 meters, or 32,800 feet.
The missile can reportedly have evaded detection by low diving and skimming the soundwave for a maximum of 20 kilometers. When the object is within 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles, the missile will gain super-captivating speed and move at approximately 100 meters per second, creating a giant air bubble surrounding the water, reducing drag significantly. The anti-ship missile could even alter course or dive underwater for a maximum of 100 meters to avoid being hit by defensive systems.
Lead scientists Li Pengfe and his team say that no established ship defense system was ever intended for this fast and multimedia attack. As a result of their invention of the boron-powered ram jet engine, they increased the boron content in the fuel. Boron initially accounted for 30% of the overall fuel in the space missile due to numerous other chemicals needed to regulate and extend the combustion.
The team has now invented a supersonic ramjet engine enclosing approximately 60% boron that would generate significant thrust in air or water. According to the paper on the development of this cross-media Ram jet engine, the fuel-rich, solid propellant melts with airflow or seawater joining it to achieve high-temperature gas, which further creates thrust via nozzles.
The race is on to develop new initiatives and missiles of warfare using boron inside.
And that’s all from Borates Today. For more information on boron and borates, forget to check our website. borates.today and our YouTube channel and podcasts. Thanks for listening.