Liquid fluorine is spectacular

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

There was a time when rocket designers felt comfortable proposing propellants that would be considered insane today:

One of these was fluorine, an oxidizer so powerful that it will oxidize oxygen. Liquified it is denser than LOX and provides a higher specific impulse than LOX when burned with the same fuels. On paper, liquid fluorine is spectacular. In reality, fluorine is toxic and just about all of the combustion compounds are toxic (burn it with hydrogen and you get hydrofluoric acid, which will eat your bones). Fluorine has the added bonus that it will merrily combust with a whole lot of structural materials, so you have to be careful in your design and preparation for tanks, pumps, lines, etc.

Consequently, it was important to know your stuff. To that end, Douglas Missile & Space Systems Division produced a Fluorine Systems Handbook.


  1. Adar says:

    Peragolics. Liquids that when combined explode and make for significant thrust in a rocket or missile. But highly toxic by themselves and hard to store. Can do a lot of damage even when not combined.

  2. Jay Dee says:

    I highly recommend John D Clark’s book, Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants. I’m not a chemist but this is the funniest book on chemistry that I’ve ever read. Original copies command ducal prices but there are any number of informal (pirated) versions on the Internet and I’ve heard there will finally be a reprint.

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