Advanced Energetic Materials: Improving Reaction Safety and Particle Size Distributions

In 1969, the USA Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy held a hearing at the head of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and was being questioned on why build a new $250 million particle collider.  What did a particle collider have to do with the security of the country?  Physicist Robert Wilson replied “It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.” 1

Highly Energetic Materials

Today, when considering national defense and development of advanced energetic materials, we can think again about cutting edge real time particle characterization technology.  Throughout the development of CHNO (carbonhydrogen-nitrogen-oxygen) and cyclotetramethylenetetranitramine (HMX), reaction calorimetry, inline particle characterization, and in situ reaction analysis technology, play a key role in optimizing and controlling the development and scale-up of highly explosive compounds.

In a recent publication the Committee on Advanced Energetic Materials and Manufacturing Technologies, National Research Council recommended that the Department of Defense focus attention and funding not only the “development of new energetic materials, but also their characterization and scale-up.”2

Specifically for energetic materials, the risks associated with process safety can be reduced or eliminated through the use of reaction calorimetry and in situ Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) process analytical technology.  Once synthesized, crystallization is a technique which is used to control end product qualities, such as burn rate, packing density, and formulation all of which are closely link to particle size distribution (PSD) and particle shape.

On August 4, Jerry Salan of Nalas Engineering will discuss how to improve the reaction safety of advanced energetic materials during the webinar – How to Reduce Risk When Scaling-up Explosive Compounds. Another presentation related to this topic that is now available on-demand is Improving the Crystallization of Highly Energetic Materials With Inline Particle Measurement.

1 Crash Course, New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert, 5-14-2007