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Scientists ignite aluminum water mix

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Don’t worry, that beer can you’re holding is not going to spontaneously burst into flames, but under the right circumstances aluminum does catch fire, and the exact mechanism that governs how, has long been a mystery.
Now, new research by Los Alamos National Laboratory explosives scientist Bryce Tappan, published as the cover story in the prestigious German journal of chemistry Angewandte Chemie, for the first time confirms that chemical kinetics — the speed of a chemical reaction — is a primary function in determining nanoaluminum combustion burn rates.
“It’s been long understood that nanoscale aluminum particles, 110 nanometers and smaller, are highly reactive. Aluminum particles at this scale have been used in novel explosives, propellants, and pyrotechnic formulations,” said Tappan. “The understanding of the combustion mechanism impacts how we look at the design of ever smaller aluminum particles like molecular aluminum clusters as well as possible nanoaluminum applications like hydrogen fuel storage devices — and this might be a little ‘out there’ — but also energetic formulations that could use extraterrestrial water as the oxidizer in rocket fuel.”


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