Scientists Developing Powerful Nanostructured Explosives
by William B. Scott
Aviation Week & Space Technology
04/13/00 09:24:48 PM U.S. EDT
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists are using aerogels — very light, almost smoke-like substances — to develop "nanostructured energetic materials" for powerful conventional explosives. Typically, "energetics" are either high-energy density or high-power, but not both.
"We can make a high-explosive material that has twice the energy density of a nuclear weapon, but the power is significantly less," said Randy Simpson, the lab's High Explosives Program Manager. By reducing crystallinity from the 100-micron to 10-30-nanometer scale, "we produce both high energy density and high power. Aerogels have tremendous surface area, so we can make an aerogel of oxidizer, then surround it with fuel...to make a complete oxidizer-fuel system."
With both in close proximity at nanometer scales, powerful explosive reactions can occur very quickly — ideal for advanced shaped charges.
"It's a very exciting technology — and you can do it in a beaker. You don't need millions of dollars worth of equipment to go into production," Simpson said.