Development of a catalyst bed for the 1N thruster

The project is implemented in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA). Together with Warsaw University of Technology and Institute of Aviation – Łukasiewicz Research Network, the project includes development of a 1 N thruster powered by concentrated hydrogen peroxide.

Catalyst beds are the key components of any single-component chemical propulsion (monopropellant) for rocket engines. One of the best known catalysts used in monopropellant rocket engine systems (e.g. hydrazine – N2H4) are prepared from aluminum oxide and iridium. On the other hand, the traditional silver catalyst has been used successfully for 60 years with another monopropellant – hydrogen peroxide HTP (High Test Peroxide), because silver has the best HTP decomposition efficiency.

However, HTP concentrations higher than 90-92% cannot be used with silver catalyst due to the adiabatic decomposition temperature of hydrogen peroxide, which is close to the melting point of silver. This in turn causes, especially in long-term processes, the silver (or silver-coated) catalyst to loses its properties due to silver oxide formation and/or sintering effects. A much stronger effect occurs with 98% hydrogen peroxide, whose decomposition is extremely exothermic, allowing the catalyst bed to reach temperatures in the 950-960 °C range within seconds, while the melting point of silver is 962 °C.

A solution may be to use materials other than silver as catalytically active materials for the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide with concentrations above 92%. One of the catalytic beds considered is the use of manganese oxides – MnOx / Al2O3 (sometimes mixed with cobalt oxides) deposited on a suitable ceramic support (e.g. alumina). Other types of such catalysts are also possible, for example, with honeycomb structure (MnOx / 2MgO/ 2Al2O3/ 5SiO2).

Hydrogen peroxide (HTP) at a concentration of 98% is the most desirable in monopropellant applications due to its propulsion and ecological properties. Therefore, the development of a catalyst for 98% HTP that shows no problems with decreased activity and life expectancy shortening seems to be the most important issue in this field. The main objective of the project is to conduct research that would answer the question of which technology will allow us to obtain the most promising catalyst for the efficient decomposition of 98% hydrogen peroxide as green rocket fuel.

The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a catalyst bed for a 1N thruster powered by HTP monopropellant – 98% hydrogen peroxide.

Assuming that this solution meets the specified technical requirements, the development of the 1N thruster powered by HTP, will continue.

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