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Pre-Explosive Phenomena in Energetic Materials


Investigation on Pre-Explosive Phenomena in Energetic Materials at Real-time (0.1 ns ÷ 0.1 ms)

Tech Area / Field

  • MAT-EXP/Explosives/Materials

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Kemerovo State University, Russia, Kemerovo reg., Kemerovo

Supporting institutes

  • VNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk


  • [Individual specialist]\nUniversity of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign / Department of Physics, USA, IL, Urbana

Project summary

The goal of this project is to identify new, effective methods to control the sensitivity of energetic materials [1, 2] in order to increase the safety and stability of high explosives. The project will investigate the initial stages of the explosive decomposition reaction in energetic materials (pre-explosive phenomena), which occur during period of induction (time from application of external action to explosion of energetic material) [3, 4], at the microscopic level, i.e. the level of electron excitation and point defects in the crystal lattice.

Understanding the mechanisms of these phenomena will enable new approaches to controlling the sensitivity of energetic materials. These approaches will employ methods that have been developed by research in condensed matter physics and the physics of semiconductors [5] to affect on electron excitations and point defects.

Although there is a considerable body of existing work on detonation physics [1], most describe detonation processes at the macroscopic level. The innovative approach in the current proposal is a complex experimental and theoretical investigation of the microscopic processes that underlie pre-explosive phenomena.

This proposal extends investigations by our team that were carried out in ISTC project #2180, “Investigation of Initial Stages of Explosive Decomposition of Energetic Materials by Methods of Radiation Solid State Physics” (2002–2004).

Under fulfillment of this project we shall use a new methodical approach that was developed by our team during the previous project: pulse initiation (using lasers and electron accelerators) and measurement of pre-explosive phenomena (conductivity, luminescence) in real time (10–10 to 10–4 s). This follow-up project will allow us to further use equipment fabricated and purchased for the previous project, thus increasing the leverage of previous ISTC investment. Modest further equipment purchases will be required to extend our previous work:

  • Besides pulsed initiation of pre-explosive phenomena the steady-state ones will be investigated;
  • Besides azides of heavy metals (HMA) the high explosive (HE) will be investigated

The following tasks comprise the objectives of the proposal:
  • Development and the experimental verification of improved models of the initiation and explosive decomposition reactions of heavy metal azides. Experimental verification of methods of controlling the sensitivity of HMAs based on these models.
  • Experimental investigations of pre-explosive phenomena in high energetic materials.
  • Development of models of initiation and explosive decomposition of high energetic materials. Experimental verification of methods of controlling the sensitivity of HE based on these models.

The project participants (experts of RFNC-RFNC-VNIITF and KemSU) are particularly well suited to carry out successfully the objectives of this project, having extensive experience, both in prior work and in the joint activities comprising ISTC Project #2180; important scientific results were obtained in the previous project related to microscopic pre-explosive phenomena. The availability of experimental equipment and methods developed by our team in Project #2180 highly leverage ISTC’s investment in the current proposal.

The principal anticipated result of this proposal is the development of a physical basis for new methods to increase the safety and stability of explosives.

In the long term, this fundamental research could lead both to the development of new, safer high explosives for the mining industry in Russia and other civilian applications and to increasing the safety of stockpile stewardship of Russian high explosives, including storage, use and disposal.

The activities undertaken in this project will prepare participating former weapons specialists for future activities with civilian commercial enterprises.

The implementation of this proposal meets ISTC goals totally:

  • RFNC-VNIITF employees engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction will have an opportunity to redirect their activities to solving safety problems of high explosives, which has great significance for the peaceful application of explosive technologies.
  • Leading US specialists will take part in this project as collaborators. They are Dr. M. Kukla, a private consultant and by training a theoretical physicist; Prof. H. Krier, experimental physicist and materials scientist (Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois); C.M. Elliott, science writer and technical editor (Department of Physics, University of Illinois), who is a specialist in informational support of scientific investigations and international scientific contacts. All three collaborators participated in Project ISTC #2180 and are well acquainted with the principal investigator and other members of our team. Such collaborators will ensure scientific oversight of activities, support the implementation of the proposed project, and assist in integrating the project participants into the international scientific community.
  • Results of the project should contribute to greater safety for civilian explosive technologies.
  • This proposal will also contribute to the solution of an important national problem for Russia, i.e. increasing the safety of storage and disposal of stockpiles of high explosives.
  • New approaches developed during this project to improving the safety of high explosives will promote safer civilian explosive technologies and will provide necessary skills and outlooks for the weapons specialists participating in the project to gain employment in the civilian private sector.

Labor required to achieve the objectives of the project is 6210 man days and is determined by the principal project tasks, mentioned above.

These tasks will be carried out simultaneously at KemSU and at RFNC-VNIITF. At KemSU, preliminary experiments will test theoretical models using extremely small quantities of energetic materials and very small initiation pulses. Once proofs of principal have been obtained at KemSU, full-scale experiments will be carried out at RFNC-VNIITF using standard industrial explosives in their special large-scale test facilities.

Year 1 (quarter 1 - 4) – Development of methods to synthesize and characterize micro samples of energetic materials; mastering of experimental techniques to detect pre-explosive luminescence and conductivity.

Year 2 (quarter 5 - 8) – Experimental investigations of pre-explosive phenomena, development of working theoretical models of physical processes.

Year 3 (quarter 9 - 10)– – Experimental verification and refinement of models, experimental verification of sensitivity control methods based on these models.

Foreign collaborators will participate by:

  • Consulting with the principal investigator during proposal preparation;
  • Providing technical information and literature related to the proposed project;
  • Reviewing and critiquing progress reports;
  • Participating in the technical oversight of project activities;
  • Hosting visits of participants to foreign labs (University of Illinois);
  • Participating in joint workshops and seminars;
  • Providing editorial support for the preparation of reports and publications to disseminate project results.

The novelty of the technical approach and methodology of the project is the application of solid state physics techniques to the investigation of the formation mechanism of an explosive decomposition reaction.

The complex character of the objectives of this project, including experimental and theoretical investigations, should be noted.

A unique set of equipment specially designed for just such experiments will be used in the project and lends confidence that the proposed experiments may be carried out successfully. This set of equipment was developed for the previous project, ISTC #2180. It enables experimental observation of pre-explosive phenomena (luminescence, conductivity) in real time (10–10–10–4 sec). This time resolution allows us to observe the very beginning stages of the explosive decomposition reaction as it evolves.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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