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Catalytic modification of flammable atmosphere in aircraft fuel tanks

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  • Medicine


A facility for investigating catalytic combustion and measurement of fuel molecule concentration was built to examine catalyst candidates for inerting systems in aircraft. The facility consists of fuel and oxygen supplies, a catalytic-bed reactor, heating system, and laser-based diagnostics. Two supplementary systems consisting of a calibration test cell and a nitrogen-purged glove box were also constructed. The catalyst under investigation was platinum, and it was mixed with silica particles to increase the surface area available to react. The catalyst/silica mixture was placed in a narrow channel section of the reactor and supported from both sides by glass wool. The fuels investigated were n-octane and n-nonane because their vapor pressure is sufficiently high to create ammable gaseous mixtures with atmospheric air at room temperature. Calibration experiments were performed to determine the absorption cross-section of the two fuels as a function of temperature. The cross-section values were then used to determine the fuel concentration before the flow entered the reactor and after exposure to the heated catalyst. An initial set of experiments was performed with the catalytic-bed reactor at two temperatures, 255 and 500°C, to investigate pyrolysis and oxidation of the fuel. The presence of the catalyst increased the degree of pyrolysis and oxidation at both temperatures. The results show that catalytic modification of ammable atmospheres may yield a viable alternative for inerting aircraft fuel tanks. However, further tests are required to produce oxidation at sufficiently low temperature to comply with aircraft safety regulations.

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