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  • Review of the Potential of Silanes as Rocket/Scramjet Fuels

    Paper number



    Mr. Bernhard Hidding, Heinrich-Heine-Universitaet Duesseldorf, Germany


    Mr. Domenico Simone, University of Rome "La Sapienza", Italy


    Prof. Claudio Bruno, University of Rome "La Sapienza", Italy


    Prof. Michael Pfitzner, Germany




    Longer-chained silanes are storable, liquid silicon hydrides that have become since recently a subject of intensified research. They have high densities and high enthalpies of formation (+ 40 kJ/mol per SiH 2 element). These enthalpies of formation have been calculated via empirically corrected ab initio schemes. Based on these data, several scenarios have been modelled with ideal rocket/scramjet performance calculations [1-3] and are reviewed here. In detail, using silanes yields similar performance as hydrocarbon fuels in scramjets, and when used as a bipropellant in combination with high test hydrogen peroxide in rockets, the specific impulse of MMH/NTO is exceeded. However, the formation of significant condensed combustion products and reaction kinetics could not be taken into account in these calculations due to lack of data. These effects could lead to reduced performance as well as wall coating. Monosilane, which is produced worldwide on a multi-kiloton-scale due to its role in the production of solar-grade silicon, is a known ignition promoter and combustion enhancer, and was also used in the spectacular 2004 NASA X-43A scramjet flight [4]. Higher silanes are storable liquids and more manageable than monosilane, but still possess the ability to burn vigorously with air if their decomposition is triggered. They might therefore be also used as high-density, high-performance combustion-enhancing admixtures for hydrocarbon-fuelled scramjets. Current European space-relevant activities in the silicon hydrides field are presented, and possible implications of silanes for future aerospace propulsion are addressed.

    [1] B. Hidding and M. Pfitzner, Rocket Propellant Characteristics of Silanes/O2, Journal of Propulsion and Power Vol. 22, No. 4, 2006

    [2] D. Simone, D. Bruno and B. Hidding, Silanes as Fuels for Scramjets, Journal of Propulsion and Power Vol. 22, No. 5, 2006

    [3] B. Hidding, M. Pfitzner, D. Simone and C. Bruno, Silanes/H2O2 - A High-Performance Synthetic Bipropellant for Chemical Space Propulsion, submitted

    [4] E.A. Fletcher, Scramjets and Surfboards: Some Forgotten History, Journal of Propulsion and Power, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2007

    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-07-C4.5.06.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.