Sunday, June 20, 2021
Magnetic liquids are taking off, Hayley Bennett reports, but not as their inventor once imagined
Rocket scientists at the Nasa Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, US, were working day and night. It was 1963 and they were testing hundreds of different combustion chamber designs and injectors for liquid hydrogen engines, trying to iron out problems with combustion stability that could thwart efforts to put astronauts on the moon. Solomon Steve' Papell, an ex-Army Air Corps navigator turned mechanical engineer, was at Lewis at that time, working on a problem particular to liquid propellants. Back then, it wasn't clear how liquid fuel sloshing about in zero gravity could be guided to the combustion chamber when the engine needed to be restarted. Papell attempted to solve the problem by adding magnetic dust to rocket fuel, proposing that the fuel could be drawn to the chamber using a strong magnet.
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