Mixed research unit 5278

Hydrazine, and polynitrogen energetic compounds - LHCEP


Address :
Bâtiment Berthollet 3e étage
22 Avenue Gaston Berger
69622 Villeurbanne Cedex
Phone :
33 (0)4 72 44 84 00
Fax :
33 (0)4 72 43 12 91
On the Internet :

Authority :


Research topics

The Hydrazine, and polynitrogen energetic compounds laboratory (UCBL/CNRS/CNES/HERAKLES – SAFRAN GROUP) has acquired internationally recognised expertise over many years (NASA, Defence US Energy Center Support / DESC, etc.) in the field of fundamental chemistry of N-N interactions, which includes hydrazine, its precursors and polynitrogen derivatives for space propulsion and fine chemistry.

The laboratory was notably behind the entire design of several industrial pilot prototypes, in particular for the Société Européenne de Propulsion [National Company for the Design and Construction of Aviation Engines - SNECMA], and production units which supplied the first 3 stages of the Ariane I to IV rockets, then Ariane V, ES version for 20 years. The laboratory has also designed production units with pharmaceutical groups, as an offshoot of this activity.

Given its recognised experience in the field of hydrazine rocket fuels, the unit has broadened and intensified its research to include superior systems (N-N)n (n = 2,3,..,i) with a high energy potential, namely HEM and HEDM (High Energy Density Materials). The aim is, in particular, to create complete polynitrogen structures, or even strictly nitrogen-based structures. The emergence of this new field is one of the priorities of the Direction des Lanceurs et des Satellites [Launcher and Satellite Division - CNES] and HERAKLES-SAFRAN, which have been working together for several years in the field of propellants of the future, in particular on the performance of these new energy molecules. This development should produce a gain of greater than 50% for specific impulsion, which represents a technological break both for propellants and engine design by 2020-2035. The unit has developed transversal and multidisciplinary competences in synthesis (design of molecules from quantum chemistry), thermodynamics (balance between phases, stability, sensitivity, detonation capacity, predictive computation) and process engineering (extraction, industrial transfer, safety). A pyrotechnics division has been set up and the unit has all the specific and certified tools, as well as sensitivity characterising tools (friction tests, impact, electrostatic charge) with a view to calculating propulsion performance (specific impulsion, fusion and formation enthalpy). A network of experts has been formed to study these new and unique structures for their toxicity and ecotoxicity through working closely with the Institut des Sciences Pharmaceutiques et Biologiques [Institute of Pharmaceutical and biological sciences - ISPB]. One of the immediate objectives is to replace toxic hydrazines for which there has been no alternative for the past 60 years.


• Reactor propulsion system using hydrazines and HEM and HEDS-type (high energy density materials) polynitrogen energy compounds for space propulsion. Pyrotechnic and thermal behaviour study. Predictions of propulsive and thermodynamic performance using quantum chemistry calculations.
• Thermodynamics of polyphase systems, equilibria between phases, modelling, complex environment processing, extraction, purification. Pilot units, unit operations flow-sheets, multi-injection milli-reactor technologies, dimensioning, industrial transfer.

Fields of application

Creation of HEDM-type (high energy density materials) complex polynitrogen structures for space propulsion of the future (launchers, satellites).
• Space industry
• launchers and satellites
• defence and fine chemistry