Purdue-related startup develops new rocket fuel formulation that could help slow climate change, increase efficiency and reduce costs

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Chris Stoker, an Indiana University alumnus, and Brandon Terry, a Purdue postdoctoral research associate, are pictured burning samples of solid rocket fuel propellant in the Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories at Purdue. Stoker and Terry co-founded Adranos Energetics, a company developing a cleaner, more efficient, rocket fuel propellant that uses micro-explosive tendencies to produce much higher combustion efficiency and decreased flow losses. (Purdue Research Foundation photo)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue-related startup is developing a new rocket fuel formulation that could make rockets used in military and space applications, travel further, carry greater payloads and be safer for the environment.  

Brandon Terry, a Purdue alumnus and postdoctoral research associate in Purdue's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Chris Stoker, an Indiana University alumnus, co-founded the company Adranos Energetics to develop the technology to enhance rocket performance.

Stoker said that rocket fuel hasn't changed in the last 60 years and has two major defects: inefficiency and its detrimental effects on the environment.

"Current rocket fuel sources emit toxic hydrochloric acid that damages the environment and corrodes launch equipment, resulting in expensive environmental remediation costs and equipment maintenance costs," he said. "Our fuel combustion process prevents hydrochloric acid from ever forming, completely eliminating the rocket's negative effects."

In addition, Adranos's fuel formulation uses micro-explosive tendencies that produce much higher combustion efficiency and decreased flow losses, causing rockets to go farther while carrying more weight.

"This whole new realm of metallic, micro-explosive fuels has been observed by people but not yet utilized in a propellant formulation. When a rocket is moving forward, the fuel source is often discharged from the rocket plume, meaning the fuel is coming off of the fuel source and not igniting to propel the rocket forward," Terry said. "In current fuel sources up to 10 percent of the fuel is lost, however our fuel causes the previously lost fuel to micro-explode so we harness the full fuel source to propel the rocket forward with more force and at faster speeds."

The U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. allies could use the rocket fuel, Terry said.

"Using our propellant, rockets could fly much farther and with a greater explosive power, keeping soldiers at a greater and safer distance," he said. "Our propellant could not only protect the life of the war fighter by giving him a competitive advantage but also reduce corrosion to the equipment, saving significant amounts of money."

Stoker said the technology could also be valuable in space-exploration applications.

"One of the issues preventing space flight is cost," Terry said. "With our technology we can reduce those costs significantly, enabling space flight and putting more satellites into orbit."

The company is in the lab-scale testing stage and has shown increased performance and elimination of hydrochloric acid in small-scale propellant combustion.

"Right now we are working to prove that the technology works as rockets grow in size. The rockets we are working with now are three-inch by two-foot rocket motors, but we aim to prove the performance of our fuel in a two-inch by two-foot rocket soon. In a few years we'd like to have it working in large-scale rockets," Stoker said. "Eventually we want to see our fuel in rockets everywhere. Proving its efficiency and positive effect on the environment through our four phases of validation will help us do that."

Adranos Energetics won the Gold Division of the 29th annual Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition at Purdue, receiving $30,000 in funding. The company also placed first in the University of Oregon's 25th New Venture Championship and first in the graduate division of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Global New Venture Competition, receiving $25,000 and $10,000, respectively.

Technology used by Adranos Energetics LLC has been licensed through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. Adranos is a member of the Purdue Startup Class of 2016. Purdue has 27 startups based on Purdue intellectual property that were launched in the 2016 fiscal year. A video of the company can be viewed here.

Adranos Energetics is currently utilizing lab space in the Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, which is affiliated with the Purdue School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The company has received initial funding from the Purdue Research Foundation, Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, Purdue Forever fellowship and an Air Force Office of Scientific Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative contract.

The company is seeking $500,000 to $1 million in additional funding to reach the end of phase two, which would allow the company to prove tactical validation in actual missile systems or in other real-life, large-scale rockets, over the next few years.

For information on other Purdue intellectual property ready for licensing and commercialization, visit http://www.otc-prf.org. For more information about available leadership positions, investing in a Purdue startup or licensing a Purdue innovation, visit http://www.purduefoundry.com.

About Adranos Energetics  

Adranos Energetics LLC, is a company that is focused on developing the next generation of propellants, explosives, and other energetic materials. Adranos is currently working on a cost-effective solid rocket propellant that is more efficient, more powerful, and better for the environment than traditional solid propellants.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2014 Incubator Network of the Year from the National Business Incubation Association for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at innovation@prf.org.

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