Effect of Nitrocellulose Gasifying Binder on Thrust Performance and High-g Launch Tolerance of Miniaturized Nanothermite Thrusters



Nanothermites are promising propellants for miniaturized thruster applications, but in their pure state can be very sensitive to ignition stimuli and prone to phase separation. Consequentially, a need exists for desensitizing binders that do not inhibit nanothermite thrust performance. We investigate the effects of incorporating small weight concentrations of nitrocellulose as a gasifying binder in bismuth trioxide-aluminum nanothermites. Thrust measurements revealed improvements in specific impulse up to 63.2 s using nitrocellulose. The launch tolerance of the nanothermites in response to high-g acceleration was also explored and substantial improvements were realized for nanothermites prepared with nitrocellulose. As small as 5 % nitrocellulose content suppressed the sensitivity of the nanothermites to less than 1 % ignition probability after exposure to 30 kg acceleration events. Some nanothermite charges experimentally survived up to 90 kg loads. Most importantly, nitrocellulose predictably modulated the thrust performance and ignition sensitivity of the nanothermites as a function of weight content. Employing nitrocellulose as a binder, high performance nanothermite propellants can be synthesized for miniaturized thruster applications with tailored impulse generation and ignition sensitivity.