Advanced Energetic Materials

“Advance Energetic Materials” by the Committee on Advanced Energetic Materials and Manufacturing Technologies, National Research Council (2004):

Page 1 Executive Summary: In response to a request from the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology and from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Committee on Advanced Energetic Materials and Manufacturing Technologies conducted a study of the scope and health of U.S. research and development efforts in energetic materials.

Page 16 Chapter 3 Thermobaric Explosives Current Focus: Of the topics assigned to the committee to review, only the area known as thermobarics has received national attention in the open media and throughout the DoD/DOE/Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) community. The committee heard extensive presentations by speakers from Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, agencies from the United Kingdom and Canada, and DoD agencies.

Page 18 Findings and Recommendations Findings: The committee found the following with regard to current work in the field of thermobaric explosives:

  • The implementation of thermobarics may offer the first major shift in explosives application since the introduction of the shaped charge. If the underlying principles can be understood and consistently controlled, a significant new weapons system or series of weapons systems may become available to the warfighter.
  • The engagement of formulators early in the development and characterization of potential thermobaric explosive formulations is necessary in order to capitalize on their experience and insight into advantageous material properties. A wealth of experience related to the Fuel-Air Explosives (FAE) programs exists in the services to assist in material selections and possible formulation guides…

Page 19 Recommendations: In order to further develop thermobaric weapons systems the committee recommends the following:

  • An evaluation and ranking of candidate thermobaric materials should be undertaken. The explosives community typically ranks explosive materials by some figure of merit, typically detonation velocity or pressure. Through decades of scientific study, such detonation properties have been used to predict performance characteristics such as brisance (the rapidity with which an explosive develops its maximum pressure). The TNT-equivalence for blast overpressure has also been used to rank explosives. Because thermobaric materials may not detonate efficiently and their lethal effects may include temperature and impulse, traditional detonation properties and TNT-equivalence are unlikely to provide the necessary figures of merit. A simple, direct measurement tool is needed. One such tool is the “stop sign” reported by Canadian researchers.9
  • A concerted and focused effort is needed for understanding the phenomenology of enhanced-blast kill mechanisms and what they may offer over conventional munitions in effectiveness. This effort should be conducted to the point at which the major parameters influencing enhanced-blast effectiveness have been identified and incorporated into a model useful for effectiveness calculations and design of weapons.
  • Warhead designs should be based on sufficient understanding of mechanisms in order to guide design toward optimal performance.

9 D. Frost, McGill University. 2001. Presentation to the committee. April 29.

Page 46 Meeting Four April 18-19, 2002 National Research Council: Detonations in Heterogeneous Explosives David Frost, McGill University

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