R&D, pilot testing, full-scale production -- this custom processor does it all
A custom processor develops a process for producing and coating aluminum nanoparticles to make a better solid fuel for the US Air Force's surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.
Metals become pyrophoric [ignite spontaneously in oxygen] when they're reduced to micro- or nano-sized particles because the particle's surface area rapidly oxidizes in the presence of oxygen. This volatile reaction releases an enormous amount of energy and creates intense heat, causing the particles to spontaneously ignite. To prevent such rapid oxidation, each particle must be coated with a protective material. The coated particles can then be exposed to a catalyst that dissolves the coating at a known rate to create a controlled pyrophoric reaction. When the particles are correctly coated and the pyrophoric reaction properly controlled, metal microparticles and nanoparticles can be used to make solid fuels that propel rockets and missiles. In 1998, Aveka, a custom processor headquartered in Woodbury, Minn., took on the task of researching and developing a process to produce and coat aluminum nanoparticles for the US Air Force to use in its solid-fuel missiles.