China Wants to Turn Garbage Into Rocket Fuel

Michael Peck

Michael Peck

Security,

Is that even possible?

China Wants to Turn Garbage Into Rocket Fuel

To fuel high-tech missiles and aircraft, Chinese scientists want to use low-tech ingredients: garbage.

Agricultural biowaste can be converted into fuel for hypersonic missiles and aircraft, according to scientists at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics. Hypersonic platforms—which travel at Mach 5 or greater—require high-energy military fuels like JP-10 to achieve those speeds.

“Using agricultural and forestry residues including bran, chaff and mill dust, Professor Zhang Tao, Li Ning and colleagues discovered new chemical processes that can turn the waste to JP-10 fuel on a large scale with unprecedented efficiency,” according to the South China Morning Post.

“The existing JP-10 super-fuel for military aircraft has numerous advantages including high energy density, good thermal stability and low freezing point, but it costs more than $7,000 per ton -- nearly 10 times as much as ordinary jet fuel for commercial aircraft.”

In a paper in a German science journal, the Chinese researchers predicted the cost of the bio-fuel could be as low as $2,547 per ton.

Making JP-10 from crude oil is like “processing diamonds out of dirt,” says one biofuels Web site. But bio-JP-10 can be produced in a process that requires only four to six steps, researchers said. Combined with existing biomass conversion techniques, a bio-JP-10 can be created at the same price as less powerful bio-fuels already in use.

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