SALT propellent solid rockets?
September 12, 2007

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article and a WIRED Science Blog post talk of a guy (John Kanzius) who claims "he'd ignited salt water with the radio-frequency generator he'd invented" at a temperature of 3,000 °F (1650 °C).

Well, frankly, until this experiment will be replicated by many serious labs under scientific control, it looks (and likely IS) the nth joke/hoax, like the (never revealed) "free energy device" or the "perpetual motion"...

Also, assuming the salt has really burned under RF waves, it seems very improbable it could be a "new source of energy" (something like the "cold fusion") really having more energy from this chemical reaction than those used to power the RF generator.

But... just imagine the salt actually HAS burned (despite a negative balance of energy) when radiate by huge RF waves... well, it could be used to build a new generation of very simple, safe and cheap solid propellent's ROCKETS ...like this:

IF the "salt engine" rocket really works, if will be not only a "better rocket" or "the best rocket" but the PERFECT ROCKET since it would have the advantages of solid and liquid rockets (WITHOUT their disadvantages) at ZERO RISKS and UNMATCHED low costs!!!

The "salt engine" would be the first solid motor to be turned ON-OFF like a liquid engine (then, restartable hundreds times at sea level, high altitude and vacuum) and 0-100% throttleable (just modulating the RF power) without any "max loiter time" (like the "14 days" of the EDS and the "six months" of the Soyuz and Orion) so, it could wait YEARS (or DECADES) in space or on the moon (without decay or boil-off) and quickly restart at the first attempt.

Salt engines' technology could be so simple and easy that, also the smallest alt.space companies would be able to develop and build them (without risks and at very low costs) to be 100% SAFE and reliable since its salt "propellent" can't explode like a liquid rocket tank nor self-burn like a solid rocket if not switched on giving power to the RF generator, so, that rockets don't need to be man-rated since they are "intrinsically safe" (having no explosive or flammable propellents) then, "intrinsically man-rated" (the first 100% SAFE rockets of the story!) last, their price could be VERY LOW (salt is one of the most abundant and cheap mineral on earth!) cutting the price per kg. to LEO to a FRACTION (maybe, 10-20%) of to-day's costs!

Too good to be true... and I doubt very much that salt water burns... that's why I put this "idea" here (just as a "curiosity" until better news about the "burned salt" comes) rather than publish a full article on my website.

Of course, if this news will result true, I'll be ready to move the "salt motor rocket" idea to the "new rockets" concepts' pages of my website... :)

[update] Good news in this MIT Technology Review article about a solar-powered Laser developed by researchers of the Tokyo Institute of Technology that will be "capable of combusting the magnesium content of seawater" says Takashi Yabe (a professor of mechanical engineering and science at the Tokyo Institute) since "magnesium has great potential as an energy source because it has an energy storage density about 10 times higher than that of hydrogen and it's also highly abundant with about 1.3 grams found in every liter of seawater, or about 1,800 trillion metric tons in our oceans". So, can we develop a magnesium +oxydizer rocket's engine? ...and, there is enough magnesium on the Moon to refuel an ISRU based lunar lander engine?

[update] Jan. 12, 2008 Wired Blog Video: Magnesium Burning Between Bricks of Dry Ice

[update] Nov. 30, 2009 More about metal-water rockets in this MIT TechReview article.

 



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