National Academies Press: OpenBook

Advanced Energetic Materials (2004)

Chapter: 1 Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2004. Advanced Energetic Materials. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10918.
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2004. Advanced Energetic Materials. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10918.
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 2004. Advanced Energetic Materials. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10918.
Page 7

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1 Introduction I here is no modern defense system or type of weaponry that does not rely on energetic materials—either in the form of an explosive fill or as a propellant (e.g., from guns, rifles, missiles, and rockets). In addition, energetic materials are used in a multitude of critical defense components ranging from shaped charges, actuators, and delay lines to detonators. U.S. defense needs for advanced energetics have been evolving rapidly in recent years. The needs for increased mobility, enhanced range and lethality, reduced or modified signatures, reduced collateral damage, and the capability to destroy hardened and buried targets combine to increase demand for enhanced conventional energetics. However, there are challenges to overcome before larger-scale manufacturing of enhanced energetic materials can take place or before fully fielded applications from the novel energetic materials technology base can be realized. There continue to be indications that the former Soviet states are investing heavily in energetics research and development and may well be exploiting technological breakthroughs. For example, as indicated in a presentation to the committee, in 1986 MiLhail Gorbachev delivered a speech in which he implied that Soviet progress was being made in "non-nuclear weapons, based on new physical principles that approach nuclear weapons in strike capabilities.") A similar message was delivered by Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev in 1993 during a speech in which he discussed the possibility of achieving military technical superiority through the "creation of new models of high precision weapons, as well as weapons based on new physical principles that approach nuclear weapons in destructive force."2 Recent reports indicate possible Russian use of advanced energetics in Chechnya. These foreign breakthroughs have the potential to place U.S. armed forces at a substantial technological disadvantage. Many emerging technologies show promise for revolutionary changes—for example: Lighter-weight, longer-e nge m issi les a nd rockets; H igher-performa nce, lighter-weight explosives; Reduced logistics and airlift requirements; Reduced sensitivity, resulting in increased safety and warhead penetration; · Reduced or out-of-band plumes; ~ G. Ullrich, DoD. 2001. Presentation to the committee. July 31. 2 G. Ullrich, DoD. 2001. Presentation to the committee. July 31. 5

6 ADVANCED ENERGETIC MATERIALS Increased stealth; and Designer weapons for neutralization of chemical and biological agents. Enabled by advances in high-performance computing, modeling and simulation, new synthetic techniques chemistry, and the use of lasers, cryogenics, and high pressure to synthesize new molecules, recent U.S. energetics research has focused in the energy range between conventional energetics and nuclear fission.3 Approaches for creatingtechnologies with high energy and high rates of energy release range from the evolutionary to the revolutionary, and include the following: · Shock-dissociated advanced fuels and oxidizers, · Advanced CHNO/F (carbon-hydrogen-nitrogen-oxygen compound with fluorine) chemistry, · Designer explosives with metallic additives, · Nanostructured materials, · All-nitrogen and hydrogen energetics, · Reactive materia Is, and · Exotic materials, such as nuclear excited state spin and shape isomers. Many of these technologies are in the early stages of transition from theory to computer models to synthesis of small laboratory quantities for experimentation. The chemical structures of many of these materials are shown in Figure 1-1. The introduction of an evolutionary improvement in energetics typically takes a decade or longer. This period spans the time from production of laboratory quantities through process scale-up, demonstration and validation in defense systems, bulk production, and introduction into inventories.4 The revolutionary nature of many of these advanced energetic materials could mean that these basic steps will take significantly longer. The application of modern concurrent engineering techniques may substantially reduce the elapsed time for moving advanced energetic materials from theory to inventory. Modeling and simulation are likely to be useful in the safe and cost-effective scale-up of processes, equipment, and facilities for these materials. Production processes for advanced energetics will likely range from modifications of conventional mixing, casting, curing, and pressing processes; to more novel techniques, such as the creation of nanocomposites by means of skeletal synthesis, solution crystallization, and gel mending; to the exotic, such as the use of advanced nuclear reactors. Given the limited commercial markets for many of these advanced energetics, it is anticipated that substantial government investment will be required to move these technologies into production. The U.S. supplier base for high-performance explosives has been operating under i ncreasi ng stress si nce the late 1980s. A report by the Depa rtment of Com merce, issued i n 2001, predicts potentially serious employment issues with scientists, engineers, and production workers as a generation of workers retires in the next 10 to 15 years.5 For 3 Conventional energetics are capable of releasing in the range of 103 joules per gram (J/g); nuclear fission can release approximately 10~t J/g. T.L. Boggs, M.L. Chan, All. Atwood, J.D. Braun, P.S. Carpenter, M.S. Pakulak, and R.L. Hunt-Kramer. 1991. Propellant Development: From Idea to Motor, presentation to 28th JAN NAF (Joint Army, Navy, NASA, Air Force) Combustion Subcommittee Meeting, CPIA Publication 573, Vol. III, October, pp. 317-357. 5 National Security Assessment of High Performance Explosives and High Performance Components Industries. 2001. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration, Office of Strategic Industries and Economic Security. Executive summary available at

INTRODUCTION example, at the Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake, a workforce of 10 to 12 employees was engaged in active research and development of new energetic compounds in 1985. Today, this effort involves only two to three people carrying out applied development on a single material.6 All of the armed services have steadily cut spending on R&D for munitions in recent years. Department of Defense funding for research, development, testing, and evaluation for munitions is expected to continue on a downward slope. By 2005, defense spending in this area is projected to be 70 percent below 1989's peak funding level of $2.8 billion.7 ~~xoz ozN~NO2 ADN Ned —Nr402 No ~N~ NOz OzNN~NNOz ~ NNOz = 02N ~ o: N ~ ONG RDX Hit NF' I OzNN TENON N3 NO2 N3 OzN NHz A,,,,, ,NNOz 1".~1 DANPE OzN NHz F2N me, I FOX-7 NF~ NO: HEX DNT NO' N~ NO DATH of ~ o:~uO2 off CL,20 of EN H t)— I H ~0 AN Awl N N H to r4! BTATZ NHt1 H2 H2~N ~ NWHz HARTZ FIGURE 1-1 Molecular structures of selected energetic materials. (The acronyms for these materials are spelled out in Appendix C.) 7 HN _ To W,l/~4 all\ I AH J Componentsindustries.html. Accessed September2003. 6 Robin Nissan, Head of the Chemistry and Materials Division, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake. 2003. Personal communication. 7 Ullrich. See note 1 above.

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Advanced energetic materials—explosive fill and propellants—are a critical technology for national security. While several new promising concepts and formulations have emerged in recent years, the Department of Defense is concerned about the nation’s ability to maintain and improve the knowledge base in this area. To assist in addressing these concerns, two offices within DOD asked the NRC to investigate and assess the scope and health of the U.S. R&D efforts in energetic materials. This report provides that assessment. It presents several findings about the current R&D effort and recommendations aimed at improving U.S. capabilities in developing new energetic materials technology.

This study reviewed U.S. research and development in advanced energetics being conducted by DoD, the DoE national laboratories, industries, and academia, from a list provided by the sponsors. It also: (a) reviewed papers and technology assessments of non-U.S. work in advanced energetics, assessed important parameters, such as validity, viability, and the likelihood that each of these materials can be produced in quantity; (b) identified barriers to scale-up and production, and suggested technical approaches for addressing potential problems; and (c) suggested specific opportunities, strategies, and priorities for government sponsorship of technologies and manufacturing process development.

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