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Timeline: 1994 – 1998

1994 – Argonide Founded
Argonide was founded in 1994 by Fred Tepper to invest in a Russian process that produces nano powder.

FREDFred Tepper
Founder and President, Argonide Corporation






1996/7 Argonide was awarded 3 SBIR contracts on nano metal powder.

What is SBIR? The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization.
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In 1997 Argonide sold it’s first sample of nano metal powder.

What is Nano Metal Powder?

The nano metal powders Argonide offered were produced by the electroexploded wire (“EEW”) process. Virtually all the metals produced by this process are combustible, and several of them such as aluminum, iron, titanium and zirconium are either pyrophoric or nearly so. The process is capable of manufacturing particles with an average size as small as 50 nanometers. Particles as small as 50 nm have been made in experimental quantities. Typically we produce 100 nanometer particle size powders because smaller particles are often too reactive and sometimes pyrophoric, prohibiting their shipment via aircraft. There is a maximum size of about 300 nm (average). The powders are collected and protected from oxidation by the argon in the reactor. Some of the powders including those that are pyrophoric are transferred to liquid hydrocarbon. In the case of Alex®nanoaluminum powder, before removing it from the chamber the particles are passivated by exposure to dry air and are then packaged as a dry powder.

NASA Awards Argonide Phase I & Phase II on Aluminized Rocket Propellants

Metallic Nanopowders: Rocket Propulsion


Active metal powders are extensively used as fuels in most solid rocket propellants because of the high energy produced during their combustion. The specific impulse (I sp) of the rocket engine is proportional to (T c/M)1/2, where T c is chamber temperature and Mis molecular weight of combustion products. Thus the best propellants are those that produce the highest combustion temperature and the smallest possible molecular weight of the combustion products. Therefore the best oxidizers are fluorine and oxygen and the best fuels are lithium, beryllium, boron, aluminum, and magnesium. Lithium is extremely reactive and beryllium is extremely toxic so these are impractical in rocket applications. That leaves boron, aluminum, and magnesium powders as primary candidates.

Aluminum is a major ingredient in solid rocket fuels, often combined in a rubbery binder along with particles of oxidizer. When burning aluminum in solid propellants, the energy utilized can be diminished because the droplets agglomerate, producing larger droplets and slower combustion that can occur too late (after the nozzle) to be effective. The agglomerates, although partially oxidized, often slag up on the internal surfaces of the engine, reducing combustion efficiency and weighing down the vehicle.

As with solid propellants, adding aluminum to liquid fuels would also provide a theoretical advantage in higher volumetric energy density, but the metal must be uniformly dispersed and remain so in the hydrocarbon. As with solid propellants, aluminum combustion must be rapid enough so that it is consumed within the rocket engine. The most effective means of achieving complete combustion is to use powders with particle sizes at least an order of magnitude or two smaller than the metal powder ordinarily used in solid propellants. This article focuses on Alex® nanosize aluminum particles manufactured by the electroexplosion of metal wire (“EEW”) and its use in liquid and solid rocket propellants.


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