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Sudipta Seal’s latest research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Below is the abstract for the paper:

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles can be used as additives to enhance the combustion properties of solid rocket propellants. 

The search for additives to improve the combustion of highly energetic materials, such as those used for propelling rockets, is an area of intense interest. In spite of a wealth of information about the photocatalytic applications of titania (TiO2) powders, studies on the potential use of this materials for enhancing the burning characteristics of solid rocket propellants are scarce.

Now, Sudipta Seal and colleagues at the University of Central Florida have investigated the effects of titania nanoparticles on the burning efficiency of ammonium perchlorate — an essential component of solid rocket propellants. Titania powders, with either rutile, anatase or amorphous structures, were prepared by heating TiO2 nanoparticles at high temperatures. The average sizes of the anatase and rutile nanoparticles were typically 15 and 200 nm, respectively. The burn rates of propellant compounds containing 70% ammonium perchlorate and 0.5% by mass of a tiania additive were measured in a device known as a strand bomb reactor.

Each of the titania additives increased the burning rate of ammonium perchlorate by 30%, with the anatase nanoparticles yielding high, yet stable, burn rates over a wide pressure range. By controlling their size and structure, new applications can be envisaged for titania nanoparticles, based on their potential for modifying the reactions of energetic materials.