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Boron-based Missiles
16th November 2022 • Borates Today • Brendan McMahon
00:00:00 00:09:07

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Today, we will look at how China's scientists are developing a boron-inside missile that could change how we think about warfare.

Boron is a highly reactive element that reacts violently with air and water, liberating a tremendous amount of heat. It is widely used in propellants, ranging from jet liquid fuels to solid nanotube fuel sources for hypersonic rocket engines.

Transcripts

Brendan:

Welcome back to the Borates Today podcast.

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Each week we cover news on boron and borates that's relevant to the

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industry and timely with a range of topics, including the latest

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industry news, we answer questions about the key players in the sector.

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What are the trends driving demand and supply boron?

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the science behind boron?

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Who's doing valuable research into new boron and benefits?

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How does boron help in decarbonisation, in advanced In

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food security, and in nutrition?

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So don't forget to check out boron applications and benefits

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Today, we will look at how China's scientists are developing a

on our website:

boron-inside missile that could change how we think about warfare.

on our website:

Boron is a highly reactive element that reacts violently with air and water

on our website:

liberating, a tremendous amount of heat.

on our website:

It is widely used in propellants, ranging from jet liquid fuels

on our website:

to solid nanotube fuel sources for hypersonic rocket engines.

on our website:

According to a recent study published in the September 22 issue of the

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journal, Solid Rocket Technology in China, an expert team from Changsha

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Airspace Science and Engineering College detailed their plan for developing

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boron-based rocket engines that could one day power China's missiles.

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This development came after the United States air force conducted similar studies

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back in the 1950s that could enhance the strength of its supersonic bombers.

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The US military had been looking for a better fuel than conventional

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aviation fuel, which is made from fossil fuels and contains hydrogen.

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The problem is that these hydrocarbons don't generate enough energy per

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unit, even though they're easier to regulate due to carbon-based civilian

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gasoline packs bound together.

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They did not even fulfill the military's demand for supersonic jets capable

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of flying halfway around the world.

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As a result, American engineers chose boron and introduced a new family of

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fuels focused on hydro-boron substances.

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boranes or zip fuels to improve upon the existing jet engine technology.

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Due to their energy, these fuels were very appealing at first.

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They were designed to be applied with the strategic bomber long range.

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Interceptors and BOMARC missiles.

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They were also thought to be able to transform the existing jet

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engines for burning boranes..

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However, the project was quietly dropped in 1959 since ignited boron is difficult

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to control and creates debris layers that interfere with rocket effectiveness.

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Also eight volunteers bled to death during accidents involving zip energy usage.

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However, recently the race to develop hypersonic vehicles has

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reawakened interest in boron.

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Last year, china's activities were directed at air-breathing

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scramjet propellers that use a solid fuel containing nanoparticles

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of borane to propel missiles to speeds of five Mach or higher.

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The United States is also developing boron-based fuels.

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The US Navy sponsored initiatives last year for a new research

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project to discover a boron form or a boron-based chemical pathway

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that finally led to the borane incorporation in energetic substances,

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Particularly solid and liquid fuels.

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Researchers have found that the allotropes may overcome issues

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including incomplete, combustion and toxicity in boron-based fuels.

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The same element allotropes can have drastically different characteristics.

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For example, diamond and graphite, are carbon allotropes.

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The idea is that combining a new boron allotrope with another

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chemical substance could result in an efficient non-toxic fuel.

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The United States researchers are also investigating the potential for

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boron usage in hypersonic aircraft.

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Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are currently used in specific aircraft frameworks

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since they can resist high temperatures when an aircraft moves at high speeds.

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But NASA and Binghamton University engineers released a research paper

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in 2017, sponsored by the US Navy, and discovered that a boron and nitrogen

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combination could develop nanotubes for aircraft structures that can

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travel at the speed of 6,400 kilometers an hour or 4,000 miles per hour.

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While carbon nanotubes can survive temperatures as high as 450 degrees

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centigrade, boron nitride nanotubes can survive up to 900 degrees centigrade.

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Furthermore, BNNTs are lighter and more durable than CNTs and have high tensile

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strength, chemical stability, and thermal stability, making them perfect for

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supersonic or hypersonic jet structures.

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A Changsha China-based research team have developed a boron-powered

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Ram jet engine that could operate in the air and underwater.

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This is surprising because most engines are intended to

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operate solely on airplane fuel.

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Because of the high water reactivity, researchers generally prefer

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aluminum or magnesium as propellants for super-cavitation torpedoes.

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Researcher Lee and his team found an effective way to keep the boron's burn

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efficiency in various environments by modifying some components such

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as intake valves or exhaust nozzles.

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As the team continued researching and developing, they decided to increase

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the boron percentage in the fuel.

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This was done to achieve a higher level of thrust than could be

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achieved with aluminum in water.

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However, this decision also brought challenges regarding mass manufacturing,

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combustion and ignition control.

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These challenges can be addressed by adjusting the boron particles,

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enhancing the production process and researching grain mass properties.

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Boron-based fuels offer many advantages over traditional fuels.

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But one significant challenge is controlling the burning process.

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This can be difficult to regulate because boron powder acts when

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implanted into the combustors.

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This poses a risk to countries such as China, which highly depends on biofuels

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in mass produced weapons systems.

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Most of China's boron ore deposits come from outside the country,

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especially the United States.

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This dependence could cause significant issues as the supply is interrupted.

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China's boron-powered supersonic missile is intended to fly like a commercial

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plane and swim in the ocean as a torpedo.

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This would give it a much greater range and speed than any previous torpedo.

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The implications of this technology are enormous and it could potentially

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transform the way we fight wars.

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According to the article in September 2022 in the South China Morning Post,

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the 5 meter long or 16.4 foot missile would have up to 200 kilometers or 124

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miles range, and could travel at two and a half times the speed of sound at

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almost 10,000 meters, or 32,800 feet.

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The missile can reportedly have evades detection by low diving and skimming the

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soundwave for a maximum of 20 kilometers.

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When the object is within 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles, the missile will gain

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super-captivating speed and move at approximately a 100 meters per second,

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creating a giant air bubble surrounding the water, reducing drag significantly.

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The anti-ship missile could even alter course or dive under water for

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a maximum of a 100 meters to avoid being hit by defensive systems.

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Lead scientists, Li Pengfe and his team say that no established ship

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defense system was ever intended for this fast and multimedia attack.

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As a result of their invention of the boron-powered ram jet engine, they

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increased the boron content in the fuel.

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Boron initially accounted for 30% of the overall fuel in the space missile

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due to numerous other chemicals needed to regulate and extend the combustion.

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The team have now invented a supersonic Ram jet engine enclosing approximately

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60% boron that would generate significant thrust in air or water.

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According to the paper on the development of this cross-media Ram jet engine,

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the fuel rich, solid propellant melts with airflow or seawater joining it

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to achieve high temperature gas, which further creates thrust fire nozzles.

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The race is on to develop new initiatives and missiles of

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warfare using boron inside.

Brendan:

And that's all from Borates Today.

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For more information on topics related to boron and borates,

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forget to check out our website.

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borates.today and our YouTube channel and podcasts.