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black powder rocket anyone??

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Unread postAuthor: Fnord » Fri Apr 13, 2007 8:49 am

eh.. figures. If its entertaining and dangerous its against the law :)
Dont you have to have a license to legally pack rocket engines yourself? I think someone told me you do a long time ago, but I never found out if it was true or not.
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Unread postAuthor: Solo » Fri Apr 13, 2007 2:41 pm

Ok, in case anyone is wondering, Fe203 is indeed a catalyst. You are right that it doesn't decompose, but it doesn't have to to be a catalyst. It would only have to decompose if you wanted it to be an oxidizer, which is what happens with thermite. It works admirably as burn rate catalyst, it can increase burn rate 50% or more at high pressure for KN03/sugar!

KN03/sugar is a lot safer for large motors, but for ease of manufacturing at small scale, bp is better. You can pack powdered KNO3/sugar into paper casings if you want, but it's weaker than bp that way. Although, the ISP of the sugar fuel is indeed 120 or so compared to 80-ish for black powder.

Ammonium nitrate is crap. It sucks as a fuel, and it's too hard to convert it into potassium or sodium nitrate to be worth the bother. Other than the internet, I think the best place to look is for stump remover at a big chain hardware store/ home improvement center.
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Unread postAuthor: SpudBlaster15 » Fri Apr 13, 2007 3:09 pm

I can convert 10 pounds of NH4NO3 and KCl into high purity KNO3 in under an hour, with minimal effort. It is surely not "too hard" for most people.

Fe2O3 does NOT catalyze the burn rate of KNO3 based compositions. It is only effective when used with Chlorate and Perchlorate based comps. I believe the only catalyst that works effectively in KNO3/Sugar is Vanadium Pentoxide, which enables the KNO3 to decompose more quickly, though it is horribly toxic.
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Unread postAuthor: Solo » Fri Apr 13, 2007 3:31 pm

Well, kudos on the conversion process! I'd like to hear how you do it. I've tried making sodium nitrate using NH3NO4 and KOH, but since all the compounds involved were very water-soluble, I could seperate them. How do you dry the KNO3 when you are done?

Actually, iron oxide is pretty much universally acknowledged as a burnrate catalyst. Try these links; the guys who run these are some of the top sugar rocket builders on the internet:
Scott Fintel:
http://www.thefintels.com/aer/st98.htm
Richard Nakka:
http://members.aol.com/nonillion/burnrate.html
James Yawn:
http://www.jamesyawn.com/fe2o3/index.html
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Unread postAuthor: SpudBlaster15 » Fri Apr 13, 2007 5:00 pm

I have used Fe2O3 in numerous comps in an attempt to increase the burn rate, including KNO3/Sucrose and Black powder. Quantities ranging from .5% to 5% by mass had no effect on the burn rate of either. I have no idea how the individuals you listed managed to get any improvement.

Fe2O3 does (in my experience) have a moderate effect on the burn rate of Perchlorate and Chlorate based nozzleless rocket comps.

As for the process of making KNO3, it goes a bit like this:

NH4NO3 + KCl --> KNO3 + NH4Cl

Using a molar ratio of 1:1, add the two chemicals to as little hot water (about 50*C) as is possible, and stir until everything dissolves. If necessary, heat the solution. The dissolution of NH4NO3 is highly endothermic, and will cool the solution drastically. Now, cool the solution in a freezer until the temperature drops below 0*C (don't let any ice form). A bed of white, rod shaped crystals should be visible at the bottom of the container. This is KNO3, which has come out of solution long before the NH4Cl because of it's lesser solubility at low temperatures. Pour the water into another container, and scoop the crystals into a cloth. Close the cloth around them, and submerge the cloth in cold (0*C) water, and move it around rapidly. This will wash away any residual NH4Cl. Afterwards, I dry the crystals in a microwave or oven.

The whole process takes about an hour, with the cooling period taking up the majority of the time.
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Unread postAuthor: BC Pneumatics » Fri Apr 13, 2007 9:05 pm

NH4NO3 is fairly hard for some to get as well, for fear of terrorism :(
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Unread postAuthor: Solo » Sat Apr 14, 2007 5:27 pm

@Spudblaster: I don't know why you don't get any changes. Where do you get your iron oxide? Do you melt your sugar propelant, or pack it as a dry powder? I don't think that should effect it, but it might.

Ok, so you're using a precipitation method instead using KOH and letting the ammonia boil off. Makes sense. Do you know what percentage yeild you get?

@BC: I live in a farming area, and I can pick up 50lbs sacks of the stuff for pretty cheap. Not very good quality, and of course it's hydrated.
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Unread postAuthor: BC Pneumatics » Sat Apr 14, 2007 5:55 pm

Yeah, living in Ca has very few advantages, but access to fertilizers is one of them.
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Unread postAuthor: sandman » Sat Apr 14, 2007 7:08 pm

_Fnord wrote:eh.. figures. If its entertaining and dangerous its against the law :)
Dont you have to have a license to legally pack rocket engines yourself? I think someone told me you do a long time ago, but I never found out if it was true or not.


size G motors and under you are aloud to pack if you do not have a license
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Unread postAuthor: SpudBlaster15 » Sat Apr 14, 2007 11:16 pm

Solo wrote:@Spudblaster: I don't know why you don't get any changes. Where do you get your iron oxide? Do you melt your sugar propelant, or pack it as a dry powder? I don't think that should effect it, but it might.

Ok, so you're using a precipitation method instead using KOH and letting the ammonia boil off. Makes sense. Do you know what percentage yeild you get?


I have tried both melting and packing the powder, and the Fe2O3 had no effect on either. I purchased the Iron oxide at a pottery store. It works great in thermite comps.

The resulting yield of KNO3 has roughly half the mass of the starting chemicals. So for every 10 pounds of NH4NO3 and KCl, I get about 4 - 5lbs of KNO3, depending on how many times I recrystallize.
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