TNT replacement in melt-castable materials and energetic plasticizers

More environmentally friendly material with reduced volatility and migration issues that arise during cook-off

Materials Military Technology

Army chemists have recently invented an explosive material that has favorable sensitivity and energetic properties that point toward its potential as both a melt-castable secondary explosive, and as a propellant plasticizer. The patent-pending technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

The development of high-energy density materials (HEDMs) with good performance and low sensitivity is a common goal in the field of energetic materials. HEDMs are divided into two main groups: explosives and propellants. Explosive materials contain a significant amount of potential energy that produces light, heat, sound, and pressure when this energy is released suddenly. A propellant is an energetic substance that is used to project a vehicle, bullet or other object, typically through the formation of hot, low molecular weight gases.

Two respective sub-areas of explosives and propellants are melt-castable materials and energetic plasticizers. An ideal melt-cast material has low vapor pressure (inhalation toxicity), a melting point between 70-120° C., a significant difference between the melting temperature and the temperature of decomposition, a high density, low sensitivity, and a greener synthesis.

Traditional melt-cast technologies are TNT-based, but environmental concerns have led to its replacement with dinitroanisole (DNAN). However, DNAN, with a density of 1.52 gcm−3, and a detonation velocity of 5,670 ms−1, is a less powerful explosive than TNT.

Now, the Army has developed melt-castable candidates that may serve as a TNT replacement in melt-castable formulations including Composition B- and DNAN-based formulations. It may also be used as an energetic plasticizing ingredient with nitrocellulose-based propellant formulations.

The composition is 3,3′-bis-isoxazole-5,5′-bis-methylene dinitrate (BIDN), which has favorable sensitivity and energetic properties and can be produced in a more environmentally friendly process.

Military uses:

  1. Melt-castable explosive formulations, as a replacement for TNT-based formulations.
  2. Energetic plasticizer to replace or supplement diethylene glycol dinitrate (DEGDN) and triethylene glycol dinitrate (TEGDN) in double-base propellant formulations.
  3. Energetic plasticizer to replace or supplement the non-energetic phthalate-based, adipate-based, and triacetin-based propellant plasticizer ingredients in rocket and gun propellant applications.
  4. Plasticizing ingredient that assists in making up the general formulation of double-based propellants.

Commercial applications:

  1. Enhanced handling and processing during typical mixing, casting and curing of modern, castable minimum signature rocket propellants.
  2. Increased safety to the overall propellant making for a more competitive, less sensitive version since it may plasticize nitrocellulose more effectively.
  3. BIDN may offer tremendous plasticization of higher nitrogen nitrocellulose stocks (typically >12.6% N content), allowing for the use of higher nitrogen content nitrocellulose with higher resultant mechanical properties.
  4. Higher thermally stable propellants using BIDN as an energetic plasticizer would exhibit lower vapor pressure and slower aging. This may assist typical tactical platforms exposed to large thermal extremes or extended periods of thermal stress with lowered migration rates within and out/into propellants to the external environment or liner.

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