Chemical engineers have invented a new crash-safe jet fuel, greatly reducing the risk of violent explosions on aircraft and road vehicles alike, without compromising proper engine function. It contains very long polymer molecules which are supposed to prevent the likelihood of fireballs erupting if the aircraft or vehicle crashes.
Professor Julia Kornfield, of the California Institute of Technology, said that
“initial engine tests showed no adverse effects on performance and our hope is that these polymers will save lives in fatal crashes in aviation and ground transportation.”
The research team conducted experiments with the new polymer by adding it to both diesel and jet fuel and then proceeded to test how well it prevented explosions. Professor Kornfield said that the research team shot projectiles at a small fuel tank to test the efficiency of polymer in preventing explosions.
“We had three continuously burning propane torches deliberately in the path of the mist to make sure that it would ignite,”
said Professor Kornfield. She also expressed optimism that the polymer can soon be applied to regular petrol as well, which is otherwise highly prone to explosions in case of a crash due to its very low flashpoint.
Engineers hope to have the additive ready for commercial use within two years for diesel fuel and within five-to-seven years for aviation fuel. Further experiments need to be conducted outside the laboratory, but scientists believe all testing points in the right direction, confirming its crash-safe attributes.
In an interview with the BBC, Professor Andrew Cooper, from the University of Liverpool, stated that the concept for an additive based on the principles of polymer chemistry existed for some time, but the true challenge lied from experimenting with the practical applications of the idea. He further stated that
“it’s a nice example of basic polymer physics and polymer chemistry translating into something that is, in principle, very useful.”
Despite its enormous improvements to safety in case of vehicle or aircraft collision, Professor Kornfield estimates that including the new additives will only raise the price of fuel by $0.06 per gallon. For many, this is only a miniscule price for a great innovation which can arguably save countless lives.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia