Polymer Additive Improves Jet Fuel Safety | AIChE

Polymer Additive Improves Jet Fuel Safety


Post-impact explosions are responsible for 40% of aviation fatalities. Although jet fuel has improved over the years, it is still flammable on impact.

The impact experienced during a plane crash can cause the liquid jet fuel to break up into small droplets, creating a mist that quickly builds up vapor pressure in the tank headspace. In the presence of an ignition source, the flammable fuel vapor can explode.

To address the flammability issues of jet fuel, scientists have developed additives to minimize misting. The key to those additives is their ability to store energy as they stretch from their coiled configuration. Ultralong polymers (i.e., polymers with a molecular weight above 5,000 kg/mol) are able to do this and can significantly reduce mist formation even at low concentrations. During normal operation, the ultralong polymers remain coiled in a compact conformation. Under conditions experienced during impact, the polymers stretch out, absorbing the energy that would otherwise be used to break apart the fuel into droplets...

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