Rocket Scientist for a Day: Investigating Alternatives for Chemical Propulsion
Journal article, 2012
This laboratory experiment introduces rocket science from a chemistry perspective. The focus is set on chemical propulsion, including its environmental impact and future development. By combining lecture-based teaching with practical, theoretical, and computational exercises, the students get to evaluate different propellant alternatives. To complete the task, they need to use several important curricular concepts, such as the breaking and formation of bonds, redox reactions, and thermodynamics. They also apply basic computational electronic structure calculations to investigate the energetic content of hitherto nonexisting alternatives. Finally, actual chemical rocket propulsion is demonstrated through the assembly and testing of a model rocket motor, employing a commercially available kit. The full experiment was developed for upper-level high school classes and is completed in a 3-h lab period. The experiment, or parts of it, has also been successfully used both in undergraduate programs and continuing education for teachers.
Applications of Chemistry