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Carmack Needs Rocket Fuel 662

Posted by timothy
from the young-man-what-is-all-this-for dept.
Reality Master 101 writes "Saw an interesting post on the Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society BBS from John Carmack, who is working on an X-prize vehicle. Apparently he is having a lot of trouble getting Peroxide from the major suppliers, and is possibly thinking of helping someone set up a company to produce peroxide. With NASA's recent problems, there has been a lot of talk about promoting more private investment in rocketry. But how can it happen when the suppliers won't even sell peroxide to well financed, registered, X-prize teams? Anyone want to start a peroxide business?"
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Carmack Needs Rocket Fuel

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  • What kind? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hether (101201) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:50PM (#5235377)
    Sorry for the ignorance. What kind of peroxide is necessary for something like this?
    • Re:What kind? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RollingThunder (88952) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:52PM (#5235394)
      Hydrogen peroxide - H2O2.
    • Re:What kind? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:58PM (#5235475)
      Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a mono-propelant (A 70% pure mix run through a catalyst screen to form steam and O2), or a bi-propellant (mixed with a hydrocarbon to form steam and CO2). Check out erps.org for info on H2O2 rocketry.

      Thank you for your time,
      Frank Russo
      • Re:What kind? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by _ph1ux_ (216706) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:12PM (#5236210)
        hmmm....

        Thats really interesting. I wonder if you could use one of these types of engines coupled to the Steam Powered Underwater Jet Engine [slashdot.org]

        It would be really awesome to see this tried - although I dont know how much peroxide would be required to produce enough for distance travelling etc....

        but still no doubt a perfect match for an experiment.
    • by silentbozo (542534) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:02PM (#5235518) Journal
      This is the same stuff you can buy at the local drugstore in 3% dilute solution to disinfect wounds, bleach hair, etc. At very high concentration (I think for rockets they use 90+%), they can use a catalyst to initiate a very rapid exothermic decomposition of the H202 to H20 (as steam) and O2. This provides thrust, without need of a 2-part fuel/oxidizer combo.

      I know of at least 2 outfits starting out with hydrogen peroxide rockets - Armadillo Aerospace (Carmack's outfit) and the infamous Rocket Guy (the toy inventor turned spaceman.)

      Research into hydrogen peroxide rockets was done in during WWII, and actually made it into some experimental applications, I believe...
      • by EccentricAnomaly (451326) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:49PM (#5236009) Homepage
        Purdue University is doing lots of work with Peroxide based rockets. Armadillo should contact the Aero /Astro dept. there to get some tips on how to aquire the stuff. Just call the number on their web page.

        I think they couldn't get stuff above 80% because of transportation concerns... I believe that they were able to distill the 80% stuff up to higher concentrations. They've also developed catalysts that can be mixed with the peroxide as a colloid to get better performance.

        Purdue has just rehabilitated an Apollo-era test facility to do some engine tests. When they get up to full swing, they'll probably have the best facility at a University. Armadillo might want to contact them about using their facility for tests.

        If the Armadillo guys have halfway decent designs, I'm sure the Purdue people would love an excuse to light up a new engine.
      • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:37PM (#5236408) Homepage
        Research into hydrogen peroxide rockets was done in during WWII, and actually made it into some experimental applications, I believe...

        Actually, there were production aircraft powered by hydrogen peroxide rockets. The German Me163 was a rocket-powered fighter aircraft - tiny, but capable of almost 600mph. My flying instructor, who flew in the RAF during the Second World War, said that whenever they saw Me163 fly overhead, they flew in the opposite direction so they could catch them coming back, when they were out of fuel. Otherwise, they couldn't get near them...

        There's an article in Flight Journal [flightjournal.com] about them. The description of the engine is on page 3.
    • Re:What kind? (Score:4, Informative)

      by space_hippy (625619) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:04PM (#5235538)
      Almost pure hydrogen peroxide 85 - 95 percent.
      The peroxide that people find at the drug store is 3 percent.
      The stuff used in rocket engines is extremely caustic, in other words it will burn any organic matter (read skin, muscle, bone, etc.) on contact.
      Not to mention the Department of Transportation doens't like it moving over their highways.
    • High concentration of oxygen I think, in a form safer than traditional rocket fuel.
    • Re:What kind? (Score:5, Informative)

      by bughunter (10093) <<ten.knilhtrae> <ta> <retnuhgub>> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:08PM (#5235576) Journal
      Probably Hydrogen Peroxide, H2O2.

      When I worked for American Rocket Company in 1988-89, we used 80% Hydrogen Peroxide as fuel for our thrust vector control system. Sixteen injectors at the throat of the main engine nozzle under computer control squirted H2O2 into the plume and it deflected the plume, and therefore the thrust, by enough to steer a rocket.

      This was really nasty stuff. IIRC, the only place we could get it was Germany, and we had to jump through all kinds of transportation safety hoops just to get it over here. 80% is a very high concentration, I don't know if Carmack needs this much or not. Peroxide you get at the drug store is 3% H2O2 and 97% H2O.

      One of the test valves came back from our engine test site at Edwards and we rinsed it thoroughly with water. Still, when I handled it, traces of the peroxide burned my skin. Very nasty, very painful.

      We also worked with other cool stuff like LOX (oxidizer), Silane (for ignition), and my favorite gas, Nitrous Oxide (another oxidizer, self-pressurizing and fun at parties!). I still have a hunk of polybutadiene rocket fuel on my desk as a souvenier; we used to cast that stuff into all kinds of fun shapes, including some you wouldn't be able to show your mother.

    • by brer_rabbit (195413) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:08PM (#5235581) Journal
      Sorry for the ignorance. What kind of peroxide is necessary for something like this?

      Considering it's a bunch of pimple-faced geeks, benzoyl peroxide.

    • Re:What kind? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Buran (150348) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:19PM (#5235704)
      Hydrogen peroxide was used in the V-2 (correctly called the A-4) rocket during WWII to power the rocket's fuel pumps. H2O2 was combined with sodium permanganate to produce steam, powering the pumps which drove the alcohol and liquid oxygen fuel and oxidizer into the combustion chamber.

      It may perform a similar function in this vehicle.
      • Re:What kind? (Score:4, Informative)

        by RedWizzard (192002) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @09:21PM (#5236721)
        Hydrogen peroxide was used in the V-2 (correctly called the A-4) rocket during WWII to power the rocket's fuel pumps. H2O2 was combined with sodium permanganate to produce steam, powering the pumps which drove the alcohol and liquid oxygen fuel and oxidizer into the combustion chamber.

        It may perform a similar function in this vehicle.

        It doesn't. Armadillo are using it as the primary propellant.
    • Re:What kind? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BenSnyder (253224) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:20PM (#5235714) Homepage
      A lot of torpedos use peroxide in their combustion. The Kursk sank because the peroxide vaporized in one of its torpedos and blew the casing apart. (peroxide vaporizes when it comes in contact with some metals) Since peroxide is two parts hydrogen and one part water it's used as the oxygen source for combusion.

      If I'm wrong on this, blame TLC and their show about the Kursk.
      • Umm (Score:3, Informative)

        by Glonoinha (587375)
        Peroxide is two parts hydrogen to two parts oxygen, a fairly unstable combination that tries to decompose to two parts water and one part Oxygen gas - it is an exothermic reaction that heats up in the process.

        The Glonoinha Channel - it's time well spent.
    • Re:What kind? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Soko (17987)
      Hydrogen Peroxide, in a pure form.

      Chemical makeup is H2O2. Pure Hydrogen Peroxide is rather unstable - sunlight can cause it to deteriorate into 2H2O+02, so it requires special care to keep it. It's also caustic - at one time it was used for bleach.

      They use it for rocket fuel by passing the H2O2 over a mildly electrically charged platinum grid, which causes it to break into H2 and O2 - an instant, highly combustible rocket fuel.

      Soko
    • Re:What kind? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rojo^ (78973)
      Do a google search with the words FMC, peroxide and rocket. The first page returned says:
      Traditionally, macroscopic metallic screens and coated ceramic pellets have been used as catalysts for the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide as applied to monopropellant thrusters, liquid rocket engines, and hybrid rocket systems.
      Apparently, yes, it is the peroxide that is sold at Walgreens, although much weaker as a 3% solution. I saw on one website that some municipalities treat drinking water with 35% peroxide.

      This site [tecaeromex.com] even shows someone distilling peroxide to make it more potent, presumably for use as rocket fuel.
  • hair salons (Score:4, Funny)

    by Mordac (1009) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:51PM (#5235384)
    I'm guessing getting all the hair salons to chip in a gallon or two won't help here will it. Worth a shot I guess.
    • I considered that also, but then I realized that those hair products often cause streaking, which I'm sure Carmack doesn't want.

      --gal [slashdot.org]

    • If Madonna doesn't kill you, Courtney Love will. I'm sure they're both active on /. so you best be watching your back.
    • by stendec (582696) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:26PM (#5236339)
      One day, a story was posted on Slashdot stating that Carmack needs rocket fuel. A rallying cry was quickly taken up.

      PEROXIDE FOR CARMACK! shouted the geeks, sometimes at their monitor, sometimes at their cat, sometimes at their lunch.

      It was only the second time since the Karma-for-Guns campaign that Slashdot gained the attention of the public.

      PEROXIDE FOR CARMACK! shouted the public, sometimes at their spouse, sometimes at the television, sometimes to the telemarketer.

      And soon did legislators of the United States take up the cry, carrying the battle to the floor of the Congress itself.

      PEROXIDE FOR CARMACK! shouted the legislators, sometimes at each other, sometimes at the TV cameras, sometimes at their aides.

      And soon did the President of the United States take up the cry, carrying the fight to the United Nations General Assembly.

      PEROXIDE FOR CARMACK! the president would shout, sometimes at France, sometimes at Germany, sometimes at the teleprompter.

      And soon did the world take up the cry, rousing its collective might and pooling together a vast supply of peroxide which was soon delivered to the house of John Carmack. The only man who might have objected was Hans Blix, but the last anyone saw him, he was staring into the mirror, nodding his head slowly and sighing.

      And so, one day, Carmack was driving John Romero back from the hair salon. His old friend was raving about this new catalyzing-gel they use. Romero then opened the door, and that's the last anyone saw him. They say the explosion was like "two hundred thousand quad-damaged rocket jumps."

  • by banzai51 (140396) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:52PM (#5235396) Journal
    I wonder how much that has to do with the material possibly being labled as bomb making material. I could be way off base. Anyone in the industry want to enlighten us?
    • by BWJones (18351) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:59PM (#5235485) Homepage Journal
      I wonder how much that has to do with the material possibly being labled as bomb making material. I could be way off base. Anyone in the industry want to enlighten us?

      This is exactly the problem. H2O2 can be violently reactive and in fact can even be hypergolic if mixed with certain compounds causing inadvertent accidents. The Nazi's found this out with their Me163's which actually had more losses due to refueling than combat losses.

      There are easier and safer ways to make bombs than with H202, but if someone wanted for instance to make a bomb using this stuff it could be done and be quite destructive.

      • by halftrack (454203) <jonkjeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:33PM (#5235863) Homepage
        "H2O2 can be violently reactive and in fact can even be hypergolic if mixed with certain compounds causing inadvertent accidents."

        Never seen the real thing, but read up on the subject a while back. H2O2 isn't hypergolic only mixed with certain compounds, rather the other way around. You can only keep strong solutions of H2O2 (70-100%+ I guess.) IIRC you can only store it in clean environment with pure water (not tap water, pure H2O.) Any impurity in the solution or container will cause it to violently decompose, which is why Carmack wants it and maybe why he doesn't get it (seems unlikely, reading his post.)
        • For the Me163, the Germans used C-Stoff and T-Stoff. C-Stoff was a methyl alcohol, hydrazine hydrate and water (I don't know the exact proportions), and T-Stoff was about 80% hydrogen peroxide. Together they formed a nice little hypergolic reaction, but they did occasionally lose refueling crews. The plane's tanks had to be washed out completely before refueling and the trucks carrying C-Stoff and T-Stoff came one after the other, never at the same time (or boom).
      • by XNormal (8617)
        This is exactly the problem. H2O2 can be violently reactive and in fact can even be hypergolic if mixed with certain compounds

        LOX is a powerful oxidizer, too, and reacts explosively even with a greasy fingerprint. With a 90 degrees kelvin boiling temperature it can cause severe cold burns, troublesome ice condensation and makes most materials brittle and more prone to failure.

        The Nazi's found this out with their Me163's which actually had more losses due to refueling than combat losses

        The problems early German and British rocket builders had with H2O2 are probably related to impurities that caused it to spontaneously decompose. High purity H2O2 available today, handled and stored properly in clean compatible containers and treated with respect is relatively safe.

        Chemical, semiconductors and other industries regularly handle much nastier compounds and they are regularly transported in tanker trucks that may be passing not far from your home.

        The relative safety of a compound is largely a matter of perception, not fact.
  • by eyegone (644831) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:54PM (#5235418)
    He's obviously part of a terrorist plot to turn us all blond!

  • by t0qer (230538) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:54PM (#5235419) Homepage Journal
    I can do the job! Just watch!

    Me: Scientist bob, we need 40 barrels of the stuff by June so Carmack can launch!
    Scientist bob: Uhh sir our plants total capacity is only 1 barrell a month!
    Me: You fscking Idiot I didn't ask you what our capacity was! I gave you an order!

    See you can tell, i'm leaps and bounds better than any other slashdotter here! Pick me Pick me John! Look i'll even put caps on your name!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    /.!
    Date: Tue Feb 4 22:02:01 2003
    List-archive: http://lists.erps.org/archives/erps-list/

    We are starting to get the distinct impression that FMC is fucking with us on the peroxide supply situation. We keep doing the things they say (spending thousands of dollars), and they keep coming up with some other reason we still can't buy peroxide (or just not return calls for weeks). They have strung us along for a long time now, and convinced us to stop talking to Degussa, but we still don't have peroxide.

    There was some talk about this a while ago, but I was a lot more hopeful about FMC, so I didn't pursue it -- maybe it is time to set up a new company on the scale of X-L Space Systems.

    I don't want to be in the chemical processing business, but I would probably be willing to be an anchor customer. I want to buy $100,000 worth of peroxide this year.

    One of Michael Carden's customers has one of his concentrators, and is willing to do some peroxide production for us, but I would really prefer to work with a company, even a small one, that is devoted to peroxide, and really cares about all the details, not just someone that can feed a machine.

    Would any ERPS people be interested in actually running a business to do this? I would be happiest working with a proven production system (one of Michael's), but I could entertain notions of paying for more development work on the ERPS concentrators.

    This is sort of a trial balloon here -- if FMC turns around and ships us peroxide, that is still my preferred solution.

    John Carmack

  • What? Do you want California to suddenly go brunette? Think of the repercussions!
  • by purduephotog (218304) <.hirsch. .at. .inorbit.com.> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:56PM (#5235442) Homepage Journal
    Frankly it is. In fact, if you read up on what killed the Kursk, they say it was indeed an innocuous little substance that looks like water- Peroxide. The stuff reacts with practically every metal to form Oxygen (great for burning fuel). If it can form a high enough pressure to rupture sealed torpedo housings and create a fire hot enough to detonate every single torpedo on a submarine, it can do a bit of damage while being transported.

    And no, I'm not being melodramatic. To be useful it needs to be 100%... but you typically won't find it available over 35%. It's a great oxidizer- add a little to your next charcoal fire and enjoy the fumes! (ok, you'd need a catalyst like Manganese Dioxide to do it, but still...).

    Manufacture it onsite and hope you don't have an accident with your 100 gallon teflon vessels.... and please do it somewhere away from where I live.
    • I think you're being a bit overly dramatic about this.

      Yes, it's a hazardous material.

      Industry works with hazardous materials day in and day out.

      From reading the thread, one of the annoyances John is working within is that they only sell by the RAIL CAR. Sounds to me like this stuff gets used in volume, regularly, and is shipped normally.

      Also, when you say "you won't find it available over 35%" - do you mean for consumer purchase, or for industrial purchase? You can get nasty, extremely powerful chemicals at very strong concentrations - so long as you buy in industrial size bulk lots.
    • by david.given (6740) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:20PM (#5236286) Homepage Journal
      And no, I'm not being melodramatic. To be useful it needs to be 100%...

      Um, you can't get 100% hydrogen peroxide. It exists in equilibrium with water; above a certain critical point it spontaneously (and slowly) decomposes to produce water and dissolved oxygen.

      In fact, peroxide is a really great rocket fuel. It's cheap. It's easy to handle. It's environmentally friendly. It can be used in monoprop and biprop engines, depending on what you do with it. It's hypergolic, which means it's trivial to build restartable engines (the shuttle's engines aren't restartable; they can only start with assistance from the ground). It's safe, too --- much safer than hydrazine, the most common hypergolic fuel, which is horribly poisonous, carcinogenic and can be unstable, to boot.

      Yes, hydrogen peroxide can be nasty. It's a rocket fuel, for gods' sake --- it's supposed to decompose violently. You just have to be careful, and it's a hell of a lot easier to manage than stuff like liquid oxygen. Now, that stuff really is painful to handle.

      Peroxide isn't the best fuel; it's got a specific impulse [nasa.gov] of only about 160-190 seconds when used as a monoprop, but so does hydrazine. And, if you use it as a biprop with kerosene, it goes up to 200-230, which means your ship can have one small tank of kerosene for the main engines and one large tank of peroxide which runs the main engines plus the thrusters. Compare with the shuttle, which uses loads of different fuel types, each with their own storage and delivery systems.

      (The best fuels on the referenced page are in the region of 300 to 385. Hydrogen and flourine. Ack!)

      But hydrogen peroxide is the perfect choice for a small setup like Armadillo. All you need are a few simple safety precautions --- bleeder valves, non-reactive storage facilities, some basic technical expertise in handling the stuff --- and you're fine.

  • by jacquesm (154384)
    Fortunately making rocket fuel is not rocket science :)

  • by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:57PM (#5235456) Homepage Journal

    We are starting to get the distinct impression that FMC is fucking with us on the peroxide supply situation. We keep doing the things they say (spending thousands of dollars), and they keep coming up with some other reason we still can't buy peroxide (or just not return calls for weeks). They have strung us along for a long time now, and convinced us to stop talking to Degussa, but we still don't have peroxide.

    There was some talk about this a while ago, but I was a lot more hopeful about FMC, so I didn't pursue it -- maybe it is time to set up a new company on the scale of X-L Space Systems.

    I don't want to be in the chemical processing business, but I would probably be willing to be an anchor customer. I want to buy $100,000 worth of peroxide this year.

    One of Michael Carden's customers has one of his concentrators, and is willing to do some peroxide production for us, but I would really prefer to work with a company, even a small one, that is devoted to peroxide, and really cares about all the details, not just someone that can feed a machine.

    Would any ERPS people be interested in actually running a business to do this? I would be happiest working with a proven production system (one of Michael's), but I could entertain notions of paying for more development work on the ERPS concentrators.

    This is sort of a trial balloon here -- if FMC turns around and ships us peroxide, that is still my preferred solution.

    John Carmack

  • They're dying to invest and create industries that aren't commercial avaitation related.

    They would love to have other sources of cash to fall back on in case their commercial airplane division bottoms out again (which is about every 10-15 years).

    Dolemite
  • by TerryAtWork (598364) <research@aceretail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:02PM (#5235523)
    This is what happens when you sign the chit 'Abdul Al Carmack'...

  • I need some mustard...You don't see me submitting a Slashdot article about it.

    We all gots problems.

  • by Daleks (226923)
    Carmack should just tell the companies he has one giant skinned knee. That'll get him all the peroxide he needs.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:04PM (#5235537)
    The problem is the current NASA/government-contractor setup would just respond with "Why the fuck should we build a low-cost launch vehicle when we're getting $6B/year for Shuttle/ISS indefinitely?"

    Or to be even more cynical, it violates something I consider to be one of Life's Universal Rules, which is this: You should never threaten to cost someone more money than it would cost them to have you killed.

    For instance, suppose there's a market need for 20 commercial/military/ISS flights per year, and the government's willing to pay $500M per launch. That's $500M x 20 = $10B a year in pork to use the shuttle and our current unmanned vehicle capabilities. Against that, nobody is gonna build cheap launch capability, because it'll soon be a better business strategy to simply eliminate anyone who comes close.

    For instance, suppose Armadillo Aerospace develops tech that enables them to launch a satellite for $1M. With reduced costs, there might be a market for 100 launches a year versus 20. NASA space scientists are elated, because they can finally send an army of cheap probes to every planet, comet, and moon that tickles their fancy. And geeks (myself included!) will rejoice because we can finally read about all the cool science while we're vacationing at the Space Hilton.

    The big problem with this lovely picture is that as soon as Armadillo announces its $1M-to-orbit vehicle, $BIG_CONTRACTOR realizes that even if they buy Armadillo outright, the $10B/year gravy train (20 comm/spy satellites at $500M each) is gonna come up $9.9B short (20 comm/spysats, plus 80 space probes and Space Hilton modules, at $1M per launch). Someone will realize that you can hire a lot of assassins and saboteurs for $9.9B.

    Congressmen, upon realizing that Armadillo's success will soon mean $9.9B less pork to distribute to their districts, will conclude that a major campaign contributor has discovered an "intriguing" solution to both their respective problems.

    Both groups will publicly lament the "accident" at Armadillo that resulted in the flash-combustion of all personnel, and bemoan their sysadmins for the fact that all the offsite backup tapes containing design and technical data were unreadable, and use the "accident" to remind the voting and taxpaying public that space still isn't quite ready for private sector involvement.

    I wish Carmack and anyone else trying to provide cheap access to space the best of luck, but I fear for anyone who comes close to achieving the dream.

    • by autopr0n (534291) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:17PM (#5236249) Homepage Journal
      That can be bought and sold, it's just a group of hobbyists.
  • by multimed (189254) <mrmultimedia@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:04PM (#5235541)
    (not counting handling the excessive load w/o getting Slashdotted of course)

    Too many users... blah blah blah

    Probable cause: http://www.slashdot.org

    Try again in a few seconds...

    -xian@idsoftware.com

    Good Guess.
  • Is he trying to launch a rocket or or blonde? Does he think he has to look like Lance Bass to get into space?
  • The plan (Score:3, Funny)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:07PM (#5235563) Homepage
    1. Build peroxide factory ('cuz Slashdot said so)
    2. Sell it to Carmack
    3. Watch in horror as he gets bored of the whole thing and returns to writing games
    4. ???
    5. Flood the Internet with evil pop-unders advertising HERBAL PEROXIDE FOR BLONDES
    6. Profit!!!
  • Someone put Carmack in touch with Ryan Seacrest, host of American Idol. He seems to have plenty of peroxide to donate.
  • I bet a big part is litigation. If this craft blows up (this happens on occasion with spacecraft), relatives are too likely to sue any and all suppliers of equipment and materials that went into it. (I'd check the article to see if this is mentioned, but the thing is already /.ed)
  • Blonde? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ribo99 (71160) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:08PM (#5235587) Homepage Journal
    Isn't John already a blonde?
  • Wouldn't a bunch of journalists needing and wanting fame and fortune trump up a bunch of charges against such an adventure? Whats the safety aspects involved in peroxide manufacture?

    StarTux
  • Funny - my buddy's dad is being forced to retire from a 30-year career because the peroxide plant he works for in West Virginia is closing. They claimed "oversupply", obsolete equipment and processes, and bad market conditions.

    Hunh.
  • How much peroxide would $100k get you? That's a lot of money, and I'd expect a smaller company that just starts so as to make and sell peroxide would be able to either produce a lot more or a lot less peroxide for the same dollar.
    • How much peroxide would $100k get you? That's a lot of money,

      Not really. It's enough to keep a small handfull of grease-monkeys employed full-time for a year -- not including equipment and supplies. It's probably enough to pay for a part-time production facility -- but that's what Carmack sounds like he wants to avoid.

  • Carmack needs to look into the latest technology for rockets, candle wax: purified (oilless) paraffin, with some additives. [spacedaily.com] He could then get either gaseous or liquid oxygen from just about any welding supply house.
  • by Darth_brooks (180756) <clipper377.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:10PM (#5235604) Homepage
    "Hi My name is John Carmack and I'd.....yes the same guy that worked on doom and quake.......yeah I'd like to order several thousand gallons of....yes those games are violent, lots of blowing stuff up.....anyhow I'd like to order several thousand gallons of highly explosive and caustic peroxide in order to...Hello? Hello? damn."
  • that they will be held accountable for damage that you cause. Remember the first few rockets in
    • October Sky
    ?

    The sorry state of accountability in this country is why McDonalds won't sell hot coffee, ISPs are being harrassed by record companies, and rocket experimenters can't get the needed chemicals.

    Please excuse my ignorance, but how hard can it be to make the needed peroxide in the clubhouse?
  • by Tom7 (102298)

    Dude, hydrogen peroxide is like 79 cents at the drug store on my street.

  • The problem with anything like this is that you will immediately have the damn BATF, FBI goons breathing down your neck. 90% pure hydrogen peroxide is a oxidizer, it could be used for bad things (bombs) or hybrid rocket research by private citizens. The problem is that the gubment will target you as a hostile terrorist first. I wanted to do private rocket research on using thermite as a hybrid rocket propellant. This would require the purchase of aluminum powder, guaranteed visit by the BATF. I found that it just was not worth the possible hassle.
  • If they'd just use Methane, I'd be set... ;)

    Seriously, though, have they tried the hair salons? Seems to be plethora of blondes that I distinctly recall being brunettes last year running around...

    Yeah yeah.

    Har har. :)
  • I'm sure she's got enough lying around to handle any independant's needs.

    In fact, her consumption may be the reason supplier's are loath to part with what they've got. You wouldn't want to stiff your best customer just becasue someone wanted to waste this stuff as rocket fuel, now would you?

    KFG
  • by Grendol (583881) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:20PM (#5235712)
    Hydrogen Peroxide at a ~90%95% concentration was the key component for the X-15 rocket plane that was used to develop a large portion of the hypersonic flight and planetary reentry data for the first steps of the space program. The X-15 achieved mach 6.7 and 354.200ft altitude. With The theoretical 'edge of space' set at 62 miles (327360 ft), Peroxide should work. (Quite a bit about the X-15 can be read at this NASA SITE http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Newsroom/FactSheets/FS-05 2-DFRC.html ) Other versions of the x-15 used Oxygen and ammonia. Maybe they could be fuel alternatives.
  • I wish I made Slashdot every time I had an engineering problem. Now granted I'm not plunking down $100k every day on raw ingredients, but still... If you were Carmack, wouldn't it be a little expected and wouldn't you think it's a little over-the-top that random posts about very very specific things make slashdot (eg. concentrator machines).
  • If you're starting a peroxide business, make sure it's unionized from the beginning. We don't want that bubbly, fizzy mess that comes when peroxide touches scabs.
  • We know why he really wants all this peroxide: he's tired of his rep as a programming genius and has decided to spend the rest of his life as a dumb blonde.
  • Translation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pjdoland (99640) <pjdoland@p[ ]land.com ['jdo' in gap]> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:26PM (#5235786) Homepage
    "Anyone want to start a peroxide business?"

    Might as well be translated as:

    "Does anyone want to start a business that will have its customer database searched routinely under the Patriot Act?"
  • by Mittermeyer (195358) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:40PM (#5235933) Homepage
    In the New World Order ordinary citizens will not be allowed to have the capability to build rockets unless they are part of the state-approved aeronautics industry. The Homeland Security issues alone will cause most personal heavy rocket experimentation to cease.

    There are the liability issues as well if any chemical company ever sells stocks innocently to any terrorists. In a risk-adverse environment, most companies will not take that risk.

    Besides, you've seen those Carmack games. They are violent! He creates violence in our children! We must protect our children!!!
  • by I Am The Owl (531076) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:46PM (#5235978) Homepage Journal
    Seriously... isn't the thought of some programmer geek and a few friends funding their own space program just a little beyond believable? I would have to seriously question the veracity of their claims - has anyone noticed that they do not have any kind of video evidence of actually launching anything?

    I wouldn't put it past Carmack to construct a huge bomb. Everyone knows about his disturbing obsession with the occult (why else would he have made the Doom series like it is?) and his propensity for watching violence, so it's not at all outside the realm of possibility. There are many studies available that prove beyond a doubt that casual use of ultra-violent video games provokes violent behavior in children and adults alike.

    Just imagine, if you will, what a person who is exposed to these influences for 12 hours or more per day, and becoming intimately familiar with them, is going to become. Exploring space? Ha! Not likely. But, with large amounts of peroxide that he is trying to procure, he could build a pretty damn deadly explosive device. And who better to do it than the guy who invented exit wounds and exploding body parts in PC gaming? I think the Department of Homeland Security should keep a very close eye on Mr. Carmack - Timothy McVeigh was able to do more with less, and he wasn't nearly as well funded.

  • by Syre (234917) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:53PM (#5236032)
    I've always been sceptical of the RocketGuy [rocketguy.com], but at least he has this part down [rocketguy.com] and is distilling his own peroxide fuel (to 90% purity).

    Of course he does have to buy it (at 50% purity), so maybe that's a problem now too.
  • H2O2 Rocketry? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WatertonMan (550706) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:58PM (#5236093)
    I didn't know serious rocketry used this. Cool. I remember back in the days when toys could be fun and dangerous my making a small rocket in this way. Probably different than what these guys did. It was one of the "experiments" in my chemistry set I got for Christmas in the early 70's. Probably I was too young for such a thing, but boy did I love it. What are the chances of a Christmas present *these* days that comes with Sulfuric Acid, Hydrochloric acid and so forth and has instructions on making various explosives!

    My favorite experiment was the sulfuric acid mixed with sugar. I thought it was so cool that I quickly used up all the acid and made my Dad go out and find a big bottle of it.

    With all the regulations for liability now along with terrorist worries, it is probably impossible to even get half that stuff. No more ice cream made from liquid nitrogen now that I'm out of college.

  • by Trepidati0n (647966) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:04PM (#5236149)
    I don't think they are getting ignored because they are "being mistreated". I think they are being ignored because they aren't spending money in the volumes that the peroxide companies would like. In many industries $100,000 is not alot.

    I deal with this situtation everyday as an electrical engineer in the aerospace industry. We ask for something and we get ignored because the amount we are willing to spend or the quantity we want is not worth their effort.

    It isn't personal, it is just economics. Money Paid - Product Cost - Product Overhead = Profit. In a chemical business, the margins are typically small, so they need to make it up in volume.

  • by cbuskirk (99904) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:11PM (#5236194)
    Are we really sure that we want the guy who has spent is whole life working on games about blowning sh%t up to be building a giant rocket?
  • A bit naive (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SimJockey (13967) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:12PM (#5236208) Homepage Journal
    Gotta love when people get way out of their element. This guy really needs to get over his persecution complex. FMC and Degussa likely aren't "jerking you around" for shits and giggles. There is a pretty substantial liability issue with fun stuff like peroxide, and even legitimate buyers likely have a whack of paperwork to wade through. I used to run through some of the paperwork to buy chlorine gas for water treatment plants. Chemical companies kinda want to know who you are before they go selling you potential weapons of mass destruction.

    Plus, $100K worth of peroxide may not be a big order to these guys. Small order means that they don't care as much about you, especially if you want some custom spec on it.

    What would be better for him to consider is a really experienced procurement specialist, who knows the market and can source things properly. Much better use of money than building your own production facility. Hire someone already in the chemical brokering business to handle the paperwork and pay them a fee for it. Way safer than some enlightened amatuer thinking that it can't be too tough to purify peroxide.
  • by John Carmack (101025) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:42PM (#5236440)
    I agree with some comments that this isn't exactly general interest news.

    I am not interested in hearing from every chem major that is interested in starting a business (already heard from a couple, that's how I found out about the slashdot story). However, if anyone here does happen to have a brother-in-law that is a VP at FMC or some such, a little nudge wouldn't hurt.

    The full story:

    Rocket grade peroxide is stabilizer free, and 85% - 100% concentrated, as opposed to drug store peroxide at about 3% concentration. You can get up to 70% peroxide reasonably easily, but the high concentration stuff is a specialty item.

    When we started our development work a bit over two years ago, we were doing some concentration of the peroxide ourselves, which is fine for making small test batches, but you really don't want to be making drums of the stuff, or you wind up spending as much time messing with that as you do building rockets.

    We had some initial discussions with FMC about that time, but they weren't terribly encouraging. Shortly thereafter, we made contact with X-L Space Systems, a small company that was producing 98% concentration peroxide and selling it reasonably to several small outfits, as well as NASA and the USAF. I wound up buying a dozen or so drums from X-L, and everything was going well.

    The owner of X-L was having such a hard time getting the government to pay their bills on time (he never had complaints about his small commercial customers) that he finally decided it just wasn't worth the headache, and he closed the company down. I was in discussion with him to make a large enough order to justify keeping production open, but we wouldn't need all that much peroxide for nearly eight months, so the storage logistics were looking troublesome. In hindsight, I should have worked something out, even if it was expensive or difficult.

    About six months ago, we started contacting FMC again. The details haven't been very pleasant, largely because we keep thinking we are almost there, and it keeps not being the case. If they would just tell me exactly what I have to buy to make them happy, I would gladly do it, but they keep finding new things. That is the "stringing us along" part. They are mumbling again about lawyers and liability at the moment, which we thought had been worked through previously.

    We have also spoken to Degussa about production, but they won't sell in drums, only large storage tanks (they supposedly have some drums in the US, but they are "promised to" NASA, and they won't sell them to us). We could live with that, but we broke off contact with them a while ago because FMC was sounding reasonable, but insisting that they be our sole supplier.

    This is one of the unfortunate tradeoffs in modern society -- in the 70's, FMC would just ship drums of peroxide to the guys doing rocket powered dragsters without any hassles (one of them sent me a scan of some of his old shipping invoices). Today, fears of liability are larger than basic business drives like making money with your product. I'm not a "back in the good old days" sort, I fully recognize that the other advantages of modern society outweigh the nanny-state disadvantages, but one can always hope for across-the-board improvements.

    Other than being almost out of peroxide, things are going very well for Armadillo. We rescheduled a lot of our development now that the X-Prize is fully funded, so we are parallel tracking full scale vehicle development with subscale flight testing.

    John Carmack
    • by XJoshX (103447) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @10:35PM (#5237206) Journal
      ...Whether or not my brother in law is the CEO of FMC may depend on whether or not you can give me an FTP site with the latest build of Doom3... ;)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @11:59PM (#5237774)
      ...producing 98% concentration peroxide and selling it reasonably to several small outfits, as well as NASA and the USAF. I wound up buying a dozen or so drums from X-L, and everything was going well.....

      You didn't happen to conveniently place those drums next to the people guarding your facility, did you? :)

      -Greg
    • by LenE (29922) on Thursday February 06, 2003 @12:27AM (#5237917) Homepage
      I can't believe that I am responding to a John Carmack post, and that I would actually have something substantive to add.

      Anyway, I used to work at FMC, although not in their chemical division. In the late nineties, FMC made a huge gamble by selling their defense interests, and diverting funds to hydrogen peroxide production, and lost big. The thought was that the demand for industrial hydrogen peroxide was going to skyrocket (pardon the pun), and it didn't.

      When all was said and done, FMC had so much peroxide production capacity that went unused, that it became a huge liability. Where this is leading is that if you aren't going to use let's say more than 100,000 gallons of peroxide, they probably wouldn't think of selling any to you.

      Don't take it personally. Oh, and the current CEO was known internally as quite a hatchet man throughout his carreer at the company. Since I no longer work there, I can say that he was quite an asshole (unlike his predicessor). Whenever Neidermier showed up at our site, he canned people with something that approximated a dartboard method (in a large assembly of employees no less). He cuts operations and personnel on a whim, so his inner circle would probably not get on his bad side by giving some charity to a cool project. Sorry to spoil the benevolent VP dream.

      -- Len
    • Me: frantically looks for the "+1, Carmack" moderation option.

      Need any more programmers John? I'll work twice as long as anybody you've got for half the pay! I'll teach you how to play Quake 3. I'll even wash your car three times a week and wax it with a chamois. I'll personally distill your peroxide for you at no charge.

      I'll be damned if I'm gonna test fly that rocket for you though, I mean, a man's got to draw the line somewhere.

  • Try Iraq. (Score:4, Funny)

    by simetra (155655) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @09:06PM (#5236601) Homepage Journal
    I hear they help people find good chemicals. Heh.
  • Ha! (Score:3, Funny)

    by corebreech (469871) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @11:28PM (#5237589) Journal
    I bet he feels silly over having left all those peroxide drums laying around when writing DOOM.
  • by QuietRiot (16908) <cyrus@nOSPaM.80d.org> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @11:45PM (#5237685) Homepage Journal
    Would you like to make 90% H2O2 from 50% food or electronic grade peroxide that costs $0.33 USD per pound???


    Well Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana [tecaeromex.com] sells hydrogen peroxide distillation stills [tecaeromex.com] made entirely in borosilicate glass _image_ [tecaeromex.com] that merely removes the excess water. $5900 USD for a 20L unit.


    They also sell a special catalyst [tecaeromex.com] _image _ [tecaeromex.com] made of Rhodium, Palladium, Platinum, Gold and Silver.


    They also build rocket engines [tecaeromex.com] for satelites and jet packs. They also race [tecaeromex.com] jet cars and jet bikes. A link to some people [tecaeromex.com] that do this sort of thing....

    Some info from the site... :
    The hydrogen peroxide rocket engines are in fact steam rockets, but this steam is produced by a violent exothermic reaction of the peroxide. When passed through a catalyst pack, it decomposes into superheated steam and oxygen. This steam and oxygen at high pressure is expelled supersonically through a DeLaval nozzle, which produces thrust.
    For each volume of liquid injected at the catalyst, after the reaction you get 600 times this volume expelled at the nozzle.

    The most important part of these rockets are the catalyst pack, other elements of the system are a stainless steel pressure tank to hold the peroxide, a pressure tank to store nitrogen to pressurize the peroxide, a pressure regulator, a flow regulator, valves, lines and gauges.

    The nitrogen is used to pressurize the peroxide tank and push the peroxide outside the tank. When a flow valve is opened the peroxide is injected into the injection plate of the rocket.
    The catalyst is made of many silver screens that in the reaction converts the liquid hydrogen peroxide into very hot steam and oxygen at a high pressure, this jet of gas is used to impulse the vehicle.

    This kind of rocket together with steam or a hot water rocket is the safest of all the rocket engines. This rocket does not produce flame and between the rocket is considered a cool rocket that doesn't need cooling and can be made of stainless steel.

    The Hydrogen Peroxide is the same product used as antiseptic, but in space and rockets it is used at 80% to 98% strength, I use it at 90% and I produce my own peroxide.

    The Hydrogen Peroxide is the only product used in the reaction, this places it in the monopropellant liquid rocket fuel classification.

    The Hydrogen Peroxide contrary to many false information I read in the web, is a clear liquid, non volatile, non explosive, non inflammable and non toxic product that looks like water but with a great amount of oxygen, thats why in many languages its name is "oxygenated water", this product has a slight biting odor and a little bit irritating for the eyes, at the contact with the skin and the eyes it produces oxidation burns, so you must always wear rubber gloves and a face mask to cover your eyes.

    This product increase its stability with concentration, yes!, the more pure and concentrated, the more stable!.
    The 90% hydrogen peroxide must be stored in special 5254 aluminum alloy containers with vented caps in shaded or fresh rooms preferably, the product is safer to store than gasoline!, but you must store it in approved containers for hydrogen peroxide service.

    The hydrogen peroxide is unstable only if it is contaminated and decomposes easily with almost any impurity, the heavy metals, some strong alkalis and the permanganates decompose it instantaneous liberating a great amount of energy in the form of very hot steam and oxygen.


    At this strength the hydrogen peroxide is a very strong oxidizer and upon contact with organic mater it is burned, for instance if you soak a cotton rag with 90% hydrogen peroxide it burns very fast, also it can react in a hypergolic way if mixed with other chemicals.

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