Can you make a rocket engine using hydrogen peroxide and silver?

Close up on the rocket engine and exhaust pipes of Saturn 5 rocket.
Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound with the formula H₂O₂. In its pure form. pidjoe / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • Hydrogen peroxide can act as a powerful rocket propellant when concentrated to around 90 percent, significantly higher than the 3 percent concentration typically found in drug stores.
  • Silver catalyzes the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, releasing oxygen and generating heat, which turns water into steam that can be expelled at high speeds through a rocket nozzle.
  • Compared to traditional rocket engines that require a fuel and an oxidizer, a hydrogen peroxide and silver engine is cooler, safer and easier to throttle.

Hydrogen peroxide and silver really do react that way. The hydrogen peroxide has to be extremely concentrated for it to work -- around 90 percent, compared to drug store hydrogen peroxide that is sold at a concentration of 3 percent. If you have a 90-percent concentration like that, hydrogen peroxide makes a great rocket propellant!

Hydrogen peroxide's chemical formula is H2O2. When it comes into contact with silver, the silver acts as a catalyst. The reaction frees the extra oxygen atom to produce water, and also generates a lot of heat. The heat turns the water into steam, which the engine can eject at a very high speed through a rocket nozzle.


Used in this way, hydrogen peroxide is a monopropellant. Compared to a normal rocket engine that burns two different chemicals (a fuel and an oxidizer), a hydrogen-peroxide engine is very cool and relatively safe. It is also very easy to throttle.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long can a hydrogen peroxide rocket engine last?
The lifespan of a hydrogen peroxide rocket engine varies based on design and usage, but with proper maintenance, they can operate effectively for multiple missions or tests.
Are hydrogen peroxide rocket engines used today?
Yes, hydrogen peroxide rocket engines are still used today, especially in experimental rocketry and for educational purposes, due to their relatively simple design and the ease of controlling their thrust.