An engineer at the University of Hertfordshire helped to demonstrate to BBC 1’s Bang goes the Theory audiences recently that rockets can run on toffee.
“We are obviously not proposing that rocket manufacturers or jet companies start thinking about using toffee to fuel their engines but they could consider more environmentally-friendly materials,” said Ray Wilkinson, Principal Lecturer in Aerospace Design and Rocket Propulsion at the University. “Rockets do not necessarily have to be run on materials derived from oil as there may be alternatives that perform well and are very viable.”
Wilkinson worked as a consultant to the show and worked with one of the show’s presenters, Jem Stansfield, to develop a hybrid rocket motor fuelled by toffee to power a bicycle which can reach speeds of thirty miles an hour. All of the important safety and performance testing was carried out at the University of Hertfordshire, and the team also used toffee to power a railway trolley which can reach speeds of 150 miles per hour.
Earlier this year, Wilkinson and a student team also developed a rocket sled which will reach over 1200 miles per hour in about a third of a second.
Rocketry started at the University of Hertfordshire in October 2005. The purpose is to develop a rocketry presence to motivate students, carry out some research and development and to help with student recruitment. From a fresh start, the group has progressed quickly from model rockets into high-power rocketry. They have built a number of rockets, and have several being built at the moment. The largest rocket built to date, at almost four metres long, was featured in The Times at the end of August, when it was flown to about 8000 feet in Scotland during International Rocket Week.
For more information, visit: http://www.rockets.herts.ac.uk.
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