Title:
In-situ tri-atomic hydrogen production, stabilization and concentration
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system for producing, stabilizing, and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen includes a source of liquid hydrogen in the form of para-hydrogen, a piping system through which the liquid hydrogen flows, an injection point for combining the liquid hydrogen in the form of para-hydrogen with third hydrogen atoms all with the same proton spin to form H3 all with the same net magnetic orientation, and a continuous magnetic field for maintaining the magnetic orientation. The system further has a storage tank for storing concentrated liquid H3 molecules for use as a propellant.



Inventors:
Humphrey, John M. (Los Gatos, CA, US)
Britt, Edward J. (Cupertino, CA, US)
Lowther, Scott E. (Thatcher, UT, US)
Weyland, Herman H. (Morgan Hill, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/082558
Publication Date:
05/18/2006
Filing Date:
03/17/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F25J3/00
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Primary Examiner:
WARTALOWICZ, PAUL A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Bachman & LaPointe, P.C. (New Haven, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for producing, stabilizing, and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen comprising: a source of liquid hydrogen in the form of para-hydrogen; means for combining said para-hydrogen with third hydrogen atoms each having the same proton spin to form liquid H3 molecules all with the same net magnetic orientation; and means for maintaining said magnetic orientation in said liquid H3 molecules with a continuous magnetic field.

2. A system according to claim 1, wherein said para-hydrogen source comprises a tank containing liquid hydrogen that has been held in liquid form long enough for hydrogen molecules to transform to said para-hydrogen form.

3. A system according to claim 1, further comprising a piping system through which a stream of said liquid hydrogen flows and a pump for circulating said liquid hydrogen stream through said piping system.

4. A system according to claim 1, further comprising means for concentrating said liquid H3 molecules.

5. A system according to claim 4, wherein said concentrating means comprises a spinning tank.

6. A system according to claim 5, wherein said spinning tank has means for extending transit time of said liquid hydrogen through said spinning tank and for forcing the liquid hydrogen off centerline in its passage through the spinning tank.

7. A system according to claim 6, wherein said transit time extending and forcing means comprises a plurality of flow baffles.

8. A system according to claim 1, wherein said combining means comprises means for providing a flow of gaseous hydrogen, means for dissociating hydrogen molecules and ionizing individual hydrogen atoms in said gaseous hydrogen, and means for separating the ionized hydrogen atoms by the spin of their protons.

9. A system according to claim 8, wherein said dissociating means comprises an electric arc.

10. A system according to claim 8, wherein said separating means comprises means for creating a magnetic flow field around said gaseous hydrogen flow.

11. A system according to claim 8, wherein said combining means further comprises means for injecting a first stream of like spin protons into said liquid hydrogen stream.

12. A system according to claim 11, further comprising means for discharging a second stream of opposite spin protons.

13. A system according to claim 11, further comprising means for converting H3 ions to H3 molecules positioned downstream of said injecting means.

14. A system according to claim 13, wherein said converting means comprises a negatively charged grid.

15. A system according to claim 1, further comprising a storage tank for storing concentrated liquid H3 molecules and means for creating a magnetic field for aligning the molecules in the direction of their third atom spin.

16. A system according to claim 1, wherein said stream of liquid hydrogen flows through a piping system and said magnetic orientation maintaining means comprises means for generating a magnetic field around a portion of said piping system.

17. A process for producing, stabilizing, and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen comprising the steps of: providing a source of liquid hydrogen in the form of para-hydrogen; combining said para-hydrogen with third hydrogen atoms all with the same proton spin to form liquid H3 molecules all with the same net magnetic orientation; and maintaining said magnetic orientation with a continuous magnetic field.

18. A process according to claim 17, further comprising circulating a stream of said liquid hydrogen through a piping system to a spinning tank.

19. A process according to claim 18, further comprising concentrating liquid H3 molecules in said spinning tank.

20. A process according to claim 19, wherein said concentrating step comprises passing said stream of liquid hydrogen through means for extending the transit time of the liquid hydrogen stream through the spinning tank and for forcing the liquid hydrogen stream off centerline as said stream of liquid hydrogen passes through said spinning tank.

21. A process according to claim 17, wherein said combining step comprises providing a flow of gaseous hydrogen, passing said hydrogen through an electric arc to dissociate hydrogen molecules and ionizing individual hydrogen atoms, and magnetically separating said ionized hydrogen atoms by the spin of their protons.

22. A process according to claim 21, wherein said combining step further comprises injecting a first stream of like spin protons into said liquid hydrogen stream.

23. A process according to claim 22, wherein said combining step further comprises discharging a second stream of opposite spin protons.

24. A process according to claim 17, wherein said maintaining step comprises creating a magnetic field around a portion of the piping through which said stream of liquid hydrogen flows.

25. A process according to claim 17, further comprising passing said combined liquid hydrogen stream and said third hydrogen atoms through a negatively charged grid to convert H3+ ions to said liquid H3 molecules.

26. A process according to claim 17, further comprising storing concentrated liquid H3 molecules in a storage tank.

27. A process according to claim 26, further comprising applying a magnetic field to said storage tank to align the liquid H3 molecules in a direction of their third atom spin.

28. A process according to claim 26, further comprising reducing storage temperature in said storage tank.

29. A propellant comprising liquid H3 molecules having said molecules aligned in a direction of a third atom spin.

30. A process for forming a propellant comprising: providing a source of liquid hydrogen in the form of para-hydrogen; passing a stream of said liquid hydrogen through a flow system; injecting hydrogen ions having like spin protons into the stream of said liquid hydrogen; maintaining the spin orientation of said protons; converting H3+ ions in said liquid hydrogen to liquid H3 molecules which are stable at cryogenic temperature; concentrating the liquid H3 molecules from liquid H2; and extracting the liquid H3 molecules and storing the liquid H3 molecules for use as a propellant.

31. A process according to claim 30, further comprising forming said hydrogen ions having like spin protons by providing a flow of gaseous hydrogen, passing said flow through an electric arc to dissociate hydrogen molecules and ionize individual hydrogen atoms, and separating the ionized hydrogen atoms by proton spin.

32. A process according to claim 31, wherein said separating step comprises subjecting said ionized hydrogen atoms to a magnetic field.

33. A process according to claim 32, further comprising discharging a stream of opposite spin protons through an outlet.

34. A process according to claim 30, wherein said converting step comprises passing said liquid hydrogen stream through a negatively charged grid.

35. A process according to claim 30, wherein said concentrating step comprises passing the liquid hydrogen stream into a spinning tank having a plurality of baffles for extending the transit time of the liquid hydrogen through the spinning tank and to force the flowing liquid hydrogen off centerline as said liquid hydrogen passes through said spinning tank.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

This application is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/988,655, filed Nov. 15, 2004, entitled IN-SITU TRI-ATOMIC HYDROGEN PRODUCTION, STABILIZATION AND CONCENTRATION, By John M. Humphrey et al.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

(1) Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a system and a process for producing, stabilizing and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen for high specific impulse rocket and air-breathing propulsion systems.

(2) Prior Art

The economical exploration of space requires a substantial increase in specific impulse because the single stage missions that are key to the economic exploration of space lie beyond the capabilities of LOX/LH2 propulsion systems. The relationship between achievable payload fraction and required ideal delta V are presented in FIGS. 1 and 2 for a range of specific impulse values and are compared to the requirement for several important missions. FIG. 1 uses a structure fraction ((weight of non-payload structure and residual propellant weight)/weight of useful propellant) of 0.1 which is considered achievable for the missions listed and FIG. 2 use a structure fraction of 0.2 which is considered to be more realistic for the recoverable single stage Earth to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) mission.

For the mission parameters used in the study, single stage rockets using LOX/LH2 with a specific impulse of 460 seconds and a structure fraction of 0.1 achieve about a 6% payload fraction for geosynchronous satellite placement and recovery and about a 3% payload fraction for either an expendable LEO or a recoverable LEO to lunar orbit shuttle. Such LOX/LH2 rockets are unable to achieve any useful payload for a recoverable trans-Martian injection mission. However increasing the Specific Impulse from 460 seconds to 600 seconds increases the payload fractions for the above missions from 6%/3%/0% to 15%/10%/3% respectively and increasing the Specific Impulse to 900 seconds increases the payload fractions to a very respectable 30%/26%/18%. As shown in FIG. 2, for the recoverable single stage to orbit mission that is fundamental to all deeper space missions, LOX/LH2 falls far short of achieving a useful payload. However specific impulse values of from 750 seconds to 900 seconds could achieve payload fractions of between 12% and 20%.

Atomic hydrogen has for many years been an illusive goal of rocket propellant chemists. Atomic hydrogen has a theoretical specific impulse of over 2000 seconds, but the challenges of atomic hydrogen production and storage have yet to be overcome. Tri-atomic hydrogen offers a potential approach to achieving a significant fraction of the performance improvement advantages of atomic hydrogen. Depending on the binding energy of the third hydrogen atom, the energy release of tri-atomic hydrogen may be at best ⅓ of the energy release of atomic hydrogen. However, with specific impulse proportional to the square root of T/M (propellant gas stagnation temperature/molecular weight), tri-atomic hydrogen should have a specific impulse potential of around 1000 seconds.

The economical exploration of space requires the invention and commercialization of high thrust propulsion systems with a specific impulse of at least 600 seconds and more desirably of 750 seconds or above. Tri-atomic hydrogen offers a potential specific impulse in this range and may provide a quantum leap in mankind's exploration of space.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a system for producing, stabilizing, and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a process for producing, stabilizing, and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen.

The foregoing objects are attained by the system and process of the present invention.

In accordance with the present invention, a system for producing, stabilizing, and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen broadly comprises a source of liquid hydrogen in the form of para-hydrogen (which has oppositely directed proton spins), means for combining the para-hydrogen with third hydrogen atoms, such third atoms all having the same proton spin, to form H3 all with the same net magnetic orientation, and means for maintaining the magnetic orientation with a continuous magnetic field.

Further, in accordance with the present invention, a process for producing, stabilizing, and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen broadly comprises the steps of providing a source of liquid hydrogen in the form of para-hydrogen (which has oppositely directed proton spins), combining the para-hydrogen with third hydrogen atoms, such third atoms all having the same proton spin, to form H3 all with the same net magnetic orientation, and maintaining the magnetic orientation with a continuous magnetic field.

Other details of the in-situ tri-atomic hydrogen production, stabilization, and concentration system and process, as well as other objects and advantages attendant thereto, are set forth in the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings wherein like reference numbers depict like elements.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a graph showing Delta V vs. Payload Fraction and Isp for a Structure Fraction of 0.1;

FIG. 2 is a graph showing Delta V vs. Payload Fraction and Isp for a Structure Fraction of 0.2; and

FIG. 3 is a schematic representation of a system for producing, stabilizing, and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)

The present invention relates to a system and a process for producing, stabilizing and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen for high specific impulse rocket and air-breathing propulsion systems and to a propellant formed by said system and process.

FIG. 3 represents a system 10 for producing, stabilizing, and concentrating tri-atomic hydrogen. The system 10 includes a tank 12 of liquid hydrogen that has been held in liquid form long enough for the hydrogen molecules to transform to para-hydrogen where the spins of the protons in the two hydrogen atoms are in opposite directions. A pump 14 circulates the liquid hydrogen through a piping or flow system to and through a spinning tank 16. While vortex flow separation is more common, the present invention utilizes a centrifugal separation approach to minimize flow disruption relative to the magnetic field during the separation process. The radial acceleration equals the radius times (the rotational speed in radians/sec)2.

The spinning tank 16 preferably has a plurality of baffles 18 to extend the transit time of the liquid hydrogen through the spinning tank 16 and, more importantly, to force the flowing liquid hydrogen well off centerline in its passage through the spinning tank 16. The design of the spinning tank 16, e.g. size and rotation rate, depends on the density difference between the H2 and H3. The spinning tank 16 provides centrifugal separation of the liquid tri-atomic and diatomic hydrogen as a result of a significant density difference between the liquids. Since tri-atomic hydrogen is more dense, it can be extracted at the periphery. Any suitable means known in the art may be used to spin the tank 16.

A flow 20 of gaseous hydrogen passes through an electric arc 22 inside an RF field dissociator, such as an RF oscillator, before entering a non-homogeneous magnetic flow field 24. Gas dissociation and ionization using an RF oscillator is sometimes preferred as this approach does not introduce material from any electrodes. However, in some instances, the oscillating RF field may interfere with the flow separation magnetic field. In these instances, a simple electric discharge may be used as a preferred approach. The voltage which is used should be high enough to both ionize and dissociate the hydrogen so that the magnetic field can select on proton spin.

The electric arc 22 both dissociates hydrogen molecules and ionizes the individual hydrogen atoms. A non-homogeneous magnetic flow field 24 separates the ionized and dissociated hydrogen atoms by the spin of their protons.

A first hydrogen stream 26 of like spin protons is thus created and then injected into the stream of liquid hydrogen via passageway 27. A second hydrogen stream 28 of opposite spin protons is simply discharged through outlet 30. As shown in FIG. 3, the spin orientation of the protons may be maintained by a continuous magnetic field through the passageway 27 to the spinning tank 16. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the continuous magnetic field may be generated by a DC current through cryogenically cooled electrical coils around the liquid hydrogen piping or by an equivalent approach. The field generated by a DC current through a coil of wires around the pipe generates a continuous magnetic field to maintain the orientation of the tri-hydrogen ions. If desired, other approaches may be used.

The object of dispersing hydrogen ions into the stream of liquid hydrogen is to cool the hydrogen ions through collisions with hydrogen molecules and then encourage the hydrogen ions to associate with liquid hydrogen molecules to form H3+. The natural repulsion of both the injected H+ ions and the newly formed H3+ ions discourages interactions with similar ions during this cooldown process.

Downstream of the injection point (passageway 27), the stream of liquid hydrogen passes through a negatively charged grid 32. The negatively charged grid 32 is located far enough downstream of the H+ injection point (passageway 27) to allow the H3+ ions to reach thermal equilibrium with the liquid H2. The object of the negatively charged grid 32 is to convert the H3+ ions to liquid H3 molecules which are stable at the cryogenic temperature of the flow.

A key feature of the present invention is the use of para-hydrogen combined with third hydrogen atoms all with the same proton spin to form liquid H3 molecules all with the same net magnetic orientation, which orientation is maintained with a continuous magnetic field. Since the liquid H3 molecules thus created all consist of two hydrogen atoms with opposite spin (i.e. para-hydrogen) and one atom of hydrogen all with the same spin orientation maintained by the magnetic field, the resulting liquid H3 molecules should be magnetically repulsive and therefore more stable than a mixture of H3 molecules with randomly oriented magnetic moments. The process of the present invention is used to produce H3 molecules which exhibit long term stability at liquid hydrogen temperatures for use as a rocket mono-propellant or as an exothermic fuel in either rocket or air breathing propulsion applications.

The spinning tank 16 concentrates the liquid H3 from the liquid H2 based on the density difference of the two liquids. This is because the spinning tank 16 acts as a kind of centrifuge. The concentrated liquid H3 is extracted from the periphery of the tank 16 by gradually bleeding it off and is stored in a storage tank 34 for use as a propellant. The storage tank 34 also preferably has a continuous magnetic field about it. The continuous magnetic field may be generated by wrapping coils of wire 36 around the tank 34 and maintaining a DC current through the wires 36 to align the molecules in the direction of their third atom spin to maintain long term H3 stability. Reducing the storage temperature further improves the long term H3 stability.

Liquid hydrogen (H2) boils at about 20 degrees Kelvin. Keeping the temperature of the H3 close to 0 degrees Kelvin is desirable to increase its half life, both directly and in support of the common third proton spin construction and magnetic field maintenance of the H3 molecule. The same refrigeration system that produces the liquid hydrogen may be sued to maintain the temperature that is needed.

Thermal decomposition is the baseline approach for using liquid H3 as a propellant. When used as a rocket monopropellant, the liquid H3 may be injected into a heated pressurized chamber where the decomposition of H3 molecules and the reformation of H2 molecules would create a hot stream of low molecular weight exhaust products. When used in high performance air breathing applications, such as ramjets and scramjets, the decomposition of H3 molecules to H2+H and the rapid combustion of the heated H atoms with air facilitates both higher specific impulse and sustained combustion under conditions that are presently difficult to achieve.

The present invention provides a process and a system to respond to the needs for a higher specific impulse propellant for space propulsion and high performance air breathing propulsion applications through the production, concentration, storage and eventual propulsive decomposition of tri-atomic hydrogen.

It is apparent that there has been provided in accordance with the present invention an in-situ tri-atomic hydrogen production, stabilization, and concentration system and process which fully satisfies the objects, means, and advantages set forth hereinbefore. While the present invention has been described in the context of specific embodiments thereof, other alternatives, modifications, and variations will become apparent to those skilled in the art having read the foregoing description. Accordingly, it is intended to embrace those alternatives, modifications, and variations as fall within the broad scope of the appended claims.