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aircraft fuel

compound injection into aircraft fuel to limit explosions
  [vote for,

Those damn airliners always want to expolde on every little impact, but the pilots never seem to want to jettison the fuel. Why not have a compund that is injected into the fuel cells, that when mixed with the JET-A1 fuel, renders it chemically unable to ignite or burn? Undo the mix via a second reaction and the fuel cell is "cleaned" and ready to go - of course, this only works if the airplane is salvageable, but even if it is not, at least lives would be saved.
heretic, Apr 29 2001

Fact Sheet: FAA Actions on Fuel Tank Flammability http://www.faa.gov/...t/2000/fact2Jul.htm
[egnor, Apr 29 2001]

Jet-fuel additive helps survival odds http://detnews.com/...06/07/a12-69994.htm
"The study found that a total of 101 lives could have been saved by preventing post-crash explosions, an average of six lives per year." [egnor, Apr 29 2001]

Aviation Fuels with Improved Fire Safety: A Proceedings http://www.nap.edu/...oom/books/aviation/
[egnor, Apr 29 2001]

FAA hopes to eliminate future fuel tank explosions http://www.cnn.com/...12/12/twa.hearings/
Names the use of inert gas, foam material in fuel tanks, and alternative (less explosive) fuels as possible measures to reduce fuel tank explosion hazard. "The point is, the bottom line is, foam works." Includes video footage of a "fuel tank explosion test". [egnor, Apr 29 2001]

Fact Sheet: Fuel Tank Inerting http://www.faa.gov/...t/2000/fact3Jul.htm
Notes under "long-term research" the possibility of on-board inert-gas generating systems that could be used to inert fuel tanks as well as aid in extinguishing fires elsewhere. [egnor, Apr 29 2001]

Conspiracy Theories http://www.lightpla...light_800_10-98.htm
Maybe TWA 800 wasn't a fuel tank explosion after all... [egnor, Apr 29 2001]


       I assume by "fuel cells" you mean "fuel tanks".   

       This is a well-studied topic. We have nothing to add. See links.   

       H2O is a really terrible idea. This is kerosene we're talking about; water doesn't help.   

       Remember, fuel is fuel because it has a high concentration of stored chemical energy. You are positing a chemical which can somehow alter the form of the fuel -- without releasing that stored energy! -- into another form that is somehow much more stable, *reversibly*, with only a very small amount of additive. That's some deep chemical magic; postulating such a thing without describing a mechanism is serious WIBNI territory.   

       UnaBubba seems to be missing the point, which is to neutralize the fuel in a reversible fashion. Water, fire-retardant foam and so on are not reversible; if you're going to add those to the fuel, you might as well just jettison the fuel.
egnor, Apr 29 2001

       To be sure, it's entirely possible that someone might develop such a thing -- I'm not really qualified to say. Specifically, it's perhaps possible that an additive would render the fuel not such much nonflammable as nonvolatile, so that it doesn't produce explosive gases and just burns quietly. There are certainly mucagens which, in very small quantity, will turn large amounts of water into blobs of sticky slime; maybe something similar would work here.   

       But, just saying "WIBNI" doesn't get us any closer. (The mucagen thing would be a start, though. But that foam the military is already using, and which the FAA may endorse/require at some point, is probably a lot more useful.)
egnor, Apr 29 2001

       Another approach would be to use two-part fuel. Each component would be (relatively) non-hazardous on its own, but when combined (on reaching the engine) the mixture becomes fuelly. The Messerschmidt ME262 used a similar system, but tended to explode spontaneously. Advances in fuel technology since then may help.
angel, Apr 30 2001

       What happened to the gel idea? The theory being that kerosene is not very flammable as a liquid (unlike petrol) and that it is when it is atomised (sprayed around during a crash which has ruptured the tanks) that it becomes dangerous. Thus if it remained a gel in the tanks after an accident it would slowly burn, but not explode. The gel was turned into a liquid before entering the engine. I know they flew an old radio controlled 707 into the ground to test the idea and it failed in a spectacular manner. Was this the end of research into this idea? Anyone know?
Gordon Comstock, Apr 30 2001

       There was something on the gel idea on UK TV recently. The test failed only because the guy 'piloting' the aircraft was under pressure to complete it on the first run, and thus crashed the aircraft in the wrong place. The test was 'invalid' rather than a failure, but no funds were forthcoming for a re-run.
angel, Apr 30 2001

       it really doesn't matter; if the plane crashes you're probably going to die anyway. when the plane does make make an emergency (i.e. no gear) landing, i believe that fire is a bigger issue rather than explosion, the smoke from smouldering items such as the seats and carpets are more likely to get you than an explosion. or being trampled by the panic-stricken people trying to to fit through those little doorways all at once. has anyone else seen the film that some british researchers made documenting how difficult is was for people to escape a typical airliner? it was quite scary watching these people run each other over trying to save themselves.
mihali, Apr 30 2001

       No, [mihali], post-crash fuel tank explosion is a big deal, too, relatively speaking. Go read the links I posted; some of them discuss specific accidents.   

       Also, don't forget TWA 800; in-air fuel tank explosion is a bad scene.   

       UnaBubba's quite right, which is why the FAA is currently looking into filling the tanks with inert gas or foam to eliminate fuel/air vapor mixtures.
egnor, Apr 30 2001

       angel, I believe your thinking of the Komet or the Devils Sled which was rocket propelled. (ME163??) The ME262 had 2 jet engines and I think they were relatively successful, (the end of WW2 notwithstanding). Another problem with the Komet's fuel was that if you survived a heavy landing without being blown to bits, you could be dissolved by one or other component of the spilt fuel. Hey, how's that for airplane geek?
Ivy, May 04 2001, last modified May 08 2001

       If the 262 had been either introduced six months earlier, or left as a fighter instead of having been micromanaged into a 'do everything' plane, things may have been substantially different.   

       The Komet <I forget the number, but it was 16x...> used two-part fuel <Called 'C-stoff' and 'T-stoff'> that reacted violently to each other, and indeed, anything organic. So much so that they had two completely seperate fuel trucks and systems to handle them.   

       The Komet was a rocket plane, and had two minutes of thrust, after that it was a glider. No fuel in the tanks to cause a problem on a hard landing...And they were -all- hard, as the thing landed on a skid on it's belly.
StarChaser, May 05 2001

       Starchaser, Agreed, but I believe that the landing problem was caused by residue fuel left in the tanks, such was thae volatile nature of the fuel. I'll check it out.
Ivy, May 08 2001

       A search of the HalfBakery prevented me from posting an idea that would have been a clone of this one. As someone else is likely to do this as well (in the light of the World Trade Towers and Pentagon strikes) I thought an fresh annotation here would be timely.
Aristotle, Sep 13 2001

       Aristotle: spot on. I hit google looking for jumbo-sized parachutes and something to turn aviation fuel into a solid or jelly form to slow the burning. Didn't find much.   

       Is there any reason why the majority of the Jet-A1 can't be frozen (I believe at -50C) and then thawed out when the liquid level in the tank gets below a certain amount? Should slow it down.   

       Plain dumping has to be a bad idea. 150t of fuel on a city? How far up d'you have to be, before it will completely burn before it hits the ground (if you light it)?
maffu, Sep 16 2001


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