I read an interesting article yesterday on Valterri Maja’s blog (Gravity Loss) about a new class of hydrogen-based materials being researched out at the University of Es sen and a few other locations. Apparently they found a method for lining up the electron spin of the hydrogen atoms in a way that allows the magnetic fields to align and reinforce each other. They think they can make structural materials out of these polymers that would have strength to weight ratios better than carbon. But to me the interesting aspect is if this material could be used for a propellant. One of the biggest drawbacks to hydrogen is it’s storage density and temperature. If they can make a liquid hydrogen polymer that is either denser, or has a higher melting point than normal LH2, it could have serious implications for space transport and orbital propellant depots. Even if they could only make solid hydrogen polymers, having a hybrid rocket that had a 450s vacuum Isp would be impressive.
Anyhow, the papers referenced in Valterri’s article were fascinating. I really would suggest reading the whole thing if you have the time. While it’s important to take such early reports with an appropriate sized grain of salt, I think this could be an interesting avenue of research for NASA to fund. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this research now that it’s been brought to my attention.
[Update: In case you guys didn’t guess, this was an April Fool’s joke. Don’t feel bad if you got snookered, Valterri had me going for about 30min last night. I only realized it was a joke when I saw the date stamp. April Fool’s starts early over there in Europe…darned timezones…]