Evonik has developed specific, specially approved containers for the transportation of highly concentrated H2
. The inner walls of these thermal containers are first pickled using a complex procedure, after which a protective passivation layer is applied and treated with hydrogen peroxide. Pressure relief systems as well as temperature and GPS monitoring are also used.
Packed securely in this way, the hydrogen peroxide is transported by rail from the production facility in Rheinfelden (Germany) to the port of shipment on the North Sea and then across the Atlantic to French Guiana in South America.
Hydrogen peroxide is fairly unremarkable in appearance. It is a clear liquid that looks like water. Normal commercial concentrations are usually between 30 and 70 percent. Special expertise is required for higher concentrations.
“Evonik has decades of experience in manufacturing hydrogen peroxide using a process it developed itself and we have the technical ability to concentrate this aqueous solution up to 98 percent,” says Leininger. It is precisely such high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide that are needed to power space rockets.
Figure 2: “Production facilities already exist in Germany, Belgium, Austria, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Korea, Indonesia, New Zealand, and South Africa.”
So what happens when a rocket is launched? In a standard liquid-fueled rocket engine, the liquid fuel and the oxidant are stored in separate containers. Both of these need to be fed to the rocket engine under high pressure to produce the necessary thrust. “The liquid H2
decomposes over a heavy-metal catalyst, generating a lot of heat,” Stefan Leininger explains.
“This produces gaseous oxygen and steam, which together drive the turbo pumps, which in turn supply kerosene and liquid oxygen as the oxidant to the rocket engines through impellers at 20,000 to 30,000 rpm.”