Making (Per)waves

Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - 07:30 in Physics & Chemistry

Image: What looks like an engine made its way to space and back last November. While the hardware of the Perwaves experiment will not end up in your car, results from this research could lead to more efficient and carbon-free fuel in the future.Perwaves, or Percolating Reaction-Diffusion Waves, set metal powder on fire to study how it burns in a chamber. This is done in weightless conditions because the powder clumps under gravity. In weightlessness, the metal powder can be evenly spaced and suspended, making it easier to study.Why metals? Because of their high energy density, metals can compete with gasoline and oil for fuel efficiency. The only waste product is rust, which can easily be recycled back into metal powder, making metals a fully carbon-free source of energy. However, metals do not ignite easily unless in powder form, when they burn in a process known as ‘discrete burning.’Like a sparkler...

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