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Energetics Production Utilizing Resonant Acoustic Mixing

A Resonant Acoustic Mixer (RAM) uses a novel mixing technology developed for the U.S. Army under a Small Business Innovation Research project that was patented in 2007. There have been subsequent laboratory-scale investigations of the technology at various labs throughout the Navy and Department of Defense (DoD). In the RAM, mixing is achieved by acoustical energy input to the material rather than mechanical mixing by moving blades. This means that unlike current mixing, there are no moving parts in contact with the explosive material, which provides a significant safety advantage.

Existing methods have the potential for friction initiation of energetic material if the blades and the bowl become off-set and make contact, or if foreign material enters the mixer and becomes lodged between the blades and bowl. This failure mechanism has resulted in past explosive incidents. Replacing mechanical mixing of energetics with resonant acoustic mixing would eliminate this safety hazard. The objective of the project was to develop and demonstrate a small munitions production process utilizing RAM-5 to mix the explosive fill. To learn more, read RAM Technology Provides Safer and Cheaper Manufacturing of Energetic Materials (PDF).

Advanced Flow Reactor (AFR) Energetics Manufacturing

N-alkyl-N-(2-nitroxyethyl) nitramines (NENAs) have been demonstrated to be effective energetic plasticizers in gun propellants while reducing sensitivity to unplanned stimuli relative to nitroglycerin. The use of NENAs in gun-propelling charges has increased the demand for NENA materials; thus, sustainable manufacture of NENA blends requires investment to demonstrate and document a safe, economical method. A fully continuous process is envisioned as the solution.

The scope of this EMTC project is to adapt the existing batch co-nitration chemistry to a continuous Advanced Flow Reactor (AFR). The co-nitration synthesis of methyl/ethyl NENA is planned as the design criteria for the AFR. Methyl/Ethyl NENA is produced via separate methyl and ethyl batch syntheses, followed by physical blending to create the 58% methyl / 42% ethyl ratio. Co-nitration of the two components provides improvements by reducing the number of reactions and has been demonstrated at the laboratory scale. Butyl NENA synthesis is planned as a second NENA demonstration. To learn more, read AFR Technology Provides Safer and Cheaper Manufacturing of Energetic Materials (PDF).

Development of DNPD Manufacturing Process

N,N’-Di-2-naphthyl-p-phenylenediamine (DNPD) is a component of the antioxidant package used in air-to-air missile propellants, including the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. DNPD is the primary antioxidant in this propellant, working to maximize propellant shelf life by inhibiting oxidation of the binder network. A continental United Status (CONUS) source of DNPD has not existed since its U.S. manufacturer discontinued the product. Production of propellant using DNPD has proceeded with outside the continental United States (OCONUS)-sourced material since then.

The objective of this EMTC project was to develop and scale up a cost-effective method for synthesis and purification of DNPD that meets customer material specification HS 6-0089A. A further objective was to establish a reliable, CONUS-based source for DNPD of consistent quality and availability for propellant production. If such a source were established, DNPD may become the antioxidant of choice for next-generation propellants owing to its combination of performance, price and availability. To learn more, read Source of DNPD Antioxidant Manufacturing Capability (PDF).

Additive Manufacturing for Propellants

The objective of this EMTC effort was to enable the advanced manufacture of U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps critical, solid propellant grains for use in cartridge actuated devices (CADs) and propulsion systems. Additive manufacturing (AM) is an advanced manufacturing technology that has the potential to produce lower cost propellant grains with little-to-no induced thermal stress/strain during cure. Under this effort, two types of AM technology were explored for use in propellant manufacturing: material extrusion and vat photo-polymerization. Adaptation of these AM technologies for energetics will enable both composite and single- and double-base forms of propellants to be manufactured using advanced techniques. To learn more, read Enabling the Advanced Manufacture of Propellants (PDF).

Tungsten and T-10 Delay Compositions via Resonant Acoustic Mixing (RAM)

Pyrotechnic delay compositions are carefully engineered energetic materials that function to burn at a specific, known and consistent rate. The delay compositions are pressed into a delay column, which is the primary component of delay CADs that are critical components of U.S. Navy aircrew escape systems. Delay cartridges allow for and provide timing between various sequencing of system components to ensure that all the functions of the aircrew escape system have sufficient time to occur and that the timing of events is correct for a safe, successful emergency egress event.

There are three main delay compositions used in CADs for escape systems and ejection seats: tungsten, T-10 and Z-1. This project focuses on tungsten and T-10 specifically due to the following considerations related to safety, manufacturing challenges and production demand.

The most important consideration with respect to this investigation of the feasibility of manufacturing tungsten and T-10 delays via RAM is personnel safety. All three CAD/PAD delay compositions are manufactured through an attended mixing process due to the current lack of capability to support remote mixing. Implementing a RAM manufacturing process would eliminate the use of attended mixing for CAD/propellant actuated device (PAD) delay compositions and would benefit all three of the delay compositions and the associated end-items and platforms. To learn more, read RAM Enhances Manufacturing of Delay and Ignition Composition (PDF).

Development of HNS Manufacturing Process

Many of the currently fielded air- and surface-launched Navy missile programs were initially developed 20-30 years ago. As such, these programs may experience material-related issues including material obsolescence, discontinued products, inconsistent quality or characteristics of material from manufacturers and diminished manufacturing sources.

These issues make it necessary for alternate materials and/or sources to be identified to perform the same or similar function as the material being replaced. In some instances, a modification of a formulation may be necessary in order to allow systems to continue to be manufactured without interruption. Any formulation modifications would need to be evaluated in advance so that the necessary changes can be made without program interruption.

The established process for the production of hexanitrostilbene (HNS) is the classic one-step Shipp procedure. The Shipp process typically produces a crude yield of 30-55 percent that requires further purification and results in even lower overall yield. A two-step process for small-scale synthesis of HNS is also reported. The first step is the synthesis of the intermediate hexanitrobibenzyl (HNBB) and the second step is the oxidation of HNBB to HNS. The objective of this work was to optimize the two-step process in such a way that a large-scale synthesis of HNS becomes feasible and cost effective. This will provide the Navy and the Department of Defense with a reliable CONUS source of HNS. To learn more, read Source of HNS Manufacturing Capability (PDF).

Resonant Acoustic Continuous Microreactor

The objective of this EMTC initiative was to develop and build a prototype Resonant Acoustic Continuous Microreactor (RACMR) for the nitration, oxidation and hydrolysis of energetic materials and their precursors. There are many advantages associated with the continuous production of chemical compounds. Continuous flow chemistry exhibits much better heat and mass transfer, smaller footprint and enhanced safety due to much smaller quantities of potentially hazardous chemicals at a given time. However, for reactions wherein solids are precipitated or deposited during the course of the reaction, clogging is an inherent problem. RACMR technology can provide a solution to this phenomenon and allow effective continuous production of slurries without clogging the reactor.

The material 2,6-diaminopyrazine-1-oxide (DAPO) was synthesized to demonstrate this capability. DAPO is the immediate precursor to the energetic compound 2,6 diamino-3,5-dinitropyrazine-1-oxide (LLM-105) and is currently produced via a batch process with low yields. To improve the cost, availability, and quality consistency of DAPO, a continuous chemical reaction process that is capable of handling solids within the reaction pathway was desired. This chemical reaction process and the associated equipment will be advantageous to other chemical syntheses, such as nitrations, oxidations and hydrolysis reactions for energetic compounds. To learn more, read Continuous Acoustic Chemical Reactor for Nitration, Oxidation and Hydrolysis Reactions for Energetics Production (PDF).

Fastpack Demolition Explosive

The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps have documented operational deficiencies of M112 C-4 Demolition Block (DODIC M023), the most widely used plastic explosive demolition charge, related to the hardness and brittleness in cold weather environments, which affects every aspect of explosive ordnance and disposal (EOD) operations, as well as pliability issues, which leads to the restriction of the use of C-4 for demolition operations. The Joint Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal (JSEOD) Notional Concept 17-004, “Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Energetics,” documents the need to update the field of disposal energetics with a new demolition energetic that overcomes Composition C-4 (MIL-C-45010) operational limitations and allows for low-temperature flexibility and high-temperature stability, matching or exceeding C-4 detonation characteristics, and a green and cost-effective manufacturing process. This EMTC effort developed the next generation of malleable energetics, referred to as Fastpack Demolition Explosive (FPEX). FPEX will be an all-weather, moldable, easily compacted demolition explosive that matches or exceeds C-4 explosive performance. The FPEX manufacturing process will use state-of-the-art Resonant Acoustic Mixing (RAM) technology to deliver a one-unit, solvent-free, green and cost-effective manufacturing process. To learn more, read Development of the Next Generation of Demolition Explosive (PDF).

Industrialization of Submicron Explosive for Ultra-Low Energy Initiator

The objectives of this EMTC project are to demonstrate and qualify a novel initiating explosive for use in ultra-low energy exploding foil initiators (𝜇LEEFI) and then demonstrate and qualify a novel ultra-low energy initiator. The warfighter needs lightweight, safe and reliable initiation systems. This technology is an enabler for future smart weapons when employed in multi-point configurations that facilitate directional, deformable and tailorable effects warheads, as well as inclusion in smaller smart munitions that may currently employ out-of-line devices and hot wire detonators. Future in-line safe initiation systems must consume less energy, volume and weight. This state-of-the-art explosives technology can meet the requirement for smaller, less energy-intensive systems.

The 𝜇LEEFI is a qualified in-line initiator (ILI) permitted for use without interruption. Advancements in ILI technology are required to enable much smaller initiation systems with lower energy demands. This project will demonstrate 𝜇LEEFI technology enabled by the use of sub-micron CL-20 harvested from industrial grinds of CL-20. To learn more, read Novel Initiating Explosive for Use in u-LEEFI (PDF).

EMTC Contact Information

Lori A. Nock, EMTC Director

Joshua E. Morgan, Technical Project Manager

Mailing Address
Director, Navy Energetics ManTech Center
Department of the Navy
Code MT
3032 Strauss Avenue, Suite 106
Indian Head, MD 20640-5148