A hush-hush program of the early Cold War was the attempt to develop "zip fuel," a hydrogen-boron mixture intended to contain more energy by weight than petroleum-based aviation liquids. More energy density meant less fuel consumed per minute flown. The idea was that filling a bomber's tanks with an advanced substance would enable the plane to reach the old Soviet Union, drop a nuclear warhead and return. But zip fuel proved unstable, and the advent of the ICBM meant very-long-range bomber flight wasn't needed anyway.
Why do I mention zip fuel? This is Tuesday Morning Quarterback -- I don't have to have a reason. I mention it because recently, jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney said the company is experimenting with a stable liquid that contains higher energy density than standard aviation fuels such as kerosene-based Jet-A or the military's JP-7. Zip fuel may be developed after all! What is the incredible secret ingredient in the new substance -- some super-advanced experimental compound? The secret ingredient is algae. Turns out an aviation fuel blended from petroleum plus biofuels made from algae and jatropha seeds has higher energy density than any current fuel used by the United States Air Force. Had this been known in the 1950s, pond scum would have been declared top-secret.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I've been anticipating the day I would read about a new technological development that would make a 40-minute flight to Europe possible since I was old enough to know that flying's no fun, and Europe is. I don't think this is the news I've been waiting for, but it is interesting: