Fuel is a highly flammable substance that explodes under pressure. All forms of transportation carry liquid fuel that can form into a deadly fireball if ruptured with enough impact.
However, scientist have now found a way to prevent such explosions of the substance.
The team of scientists drew their inspiration from the 9/11 terrorist attacks that converted airplanes into gigantic fuel bombs upon impact of the various sites targeted in the strike.
In the 14 years since then, researchers have been working on a special fuel additive that prevents a fine vapour mist from forming during impact. This misting is what causes deadly explosions.
The new additive that the scientist have inserted into fuel turns the fuel into rain-sized droplets that fall harmlessly out of the air upon impact.
“Our dream was that if word got out to terrorists that fuel wouldn’t explode, maybe they wouldn’t be that motivated,” said Kornfield, the lead author on a study describing the jet fuel.
The new formula design contains a type of polymer, a long molecule made up of many repeating subunits, capped at each end by units that act like the master link in a bicycle chain.
They keep their formation even after passing through gasoline pumps, oil pipelines and filters, so engine owners don’t have to pour in the additive to each gas tank.
When the flow in a pipe becomes too turbulent, these mega-supramolecules release their links and then reconnect when the pieces meet again. This allows the polymer to regain its explosion-preventing properties.
“It’s the initial mist that prevents people from getting out of the vehicle,” she said. "If there’s not an initial explosion, (the larger droplets) gives you several minutes to get out.”
Kornfield says her team is working with the Pentagon to see if the fuel additive will work in a small helicopter engine, the first step in more widespread use.