Johns Hopkins chemist Andrej Grubisic has won the
American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics' Martin
Summerfield Graduate Student Award for Research in
Combustion and Propellants for his fundamental work on
aluminum hydride-based high energy density materials that
could potentially serve as rocket fuel.
Named for an American scientist who co-founded Aerojet
and invented regenerative cooling for liquid rocket
engines, the $5,000 award is funded through individual
memorial gifts and the AIAA Foundation.
"The award came as a great surprise. We knew we were
onto something potentially very important for propulsion
technology, but since its application is possibly as much
as 10 or 20 years down the road, I kept my hopes down when
waiting for the announcement," said Grubisic, who will use
the funds to upgrade one of his laboratory's instruments.
"Being recognized by the institute is not only a wonderful
tribute to our work and the great promise it holds but also
to AIAA for its foresight and willingness to embrace
Grubisic worked on a research team (led by scientists
at Johns Hopkins and Virginia Commonwealth University) that
discovered a new class of aluminum-hydrogen compounds with
a unique chemistry. These compounds may one day have
applications as high energy density materials in solid fuel
rockets and as materials for storing hydrogen. An article
about this research was published in the Jan. 19 issue of
the journal Science.
The compounds' relative stability may hold the key to
their future uses, including the development of rocket fuel
with more thrust, said Johns Hopkins' Kit Bowen, the E.
Emmet Reid Professor of Chemistry with a
joint appointment in Materials
"It's tough to predict how things will play out in the
future, but our research finding is interesting enough for
me to be willing to say that this synthesis may have the
potential for some possibly very useful future
applications," Bowen said. "Before we reach that point,
however, there are many bridges to cross."
Scientists at the University of Konstanz and the
University of Karlsruhe, both in Germany, also collaborated
on the research. The work was supported by the U.S. Air
Force Office of Scientific Research, the U.S. Department of
Energy and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.