Researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden have discovered a new molecule that could help to make jet fuel up to 30 percent more efficient. The molecule is made up of just nitrogen and oxygen and could be used as a replacement for some of the large amounts of toxic chemicals — like concentrated hydrochloric acid — which make up a large part of today’s solid rocket fuels. This exciting discovery is fresh out of the Royal Institute of Technology‘s laboratories but could have long term impacts on the rocket fuel world.

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Previously only eight molecules that consisted of just nitrogen and oxygen were known and most were discovered in the 18th century. The researchers who discovered the new molecule, which they have named Trinitramid, believe it to be the largest of the nitrogen oxides — molecules made from nitrogen and oxygen. Researchers know that for every 10% of increased efficiency in rocket fuel you can double the weight capacity of the vessel, so a 30% increase in efficiency would seriously boost the amount of weight a rocket could carry, or could seriously decrease the amount of fuel needed for a single launch.

The molecule was found while the team of researchers were looking for a better alternative to today’s rocket fuels; they were doing quantum chemical computations — meaning they were using computers to study the basic elements of rocket fuel chemicals — when they discovered this new molecule and realized that it could be stabilized. They have since produced enough of the compound to fill a test tube and are analyzing its general stability and performance. Seeing this compound come out of the tank of a space shuttle is pretty far off but the discovery leaves an open door to new rocket fuel exploration.

+ Read more about the Royal Institute of Technology discovery

Via Science Daily