TechConnect Innovator Spotlight:

TechConnect World Innovation Conference
May 14 - 17, 2017, Washington DC

Safer Energetic Materials, Idaho National Laboratory


Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory have developed energetic materials that are capable of delivering powerful explosive energy, yet demonstrate unprecedented improvements for safer storage, handling, transportation and operation. INL investigators are also working to increase the safety of ignition devices to ensure energetics detonate only when required.

Primary Application Area: Materials, Chemical

Technology Development Status: Prototype



Energetic materials designed to explode and/or burn on demand are widely used for military, industrial and police purposes. However, many of these materials and the devices used to ignite them are relatively unstable and prone to unintended ignition by low-energy sources such as static electricity (electrostatic discharge), fire, friction or shock. Their use entails considerable risk, not only to primary users, but also to transporters and the public. Powdered composite energetic materials (containing a metal (fuel) plus an oxide (oxidizer)) are effective for a wide variety of applications, but their potential for unintended detonation due to electrostatic discharge or exposure to unintentional fire, as well as their unstable form, make their use challenging and dangerous. INL Scientists have developed a patented method of producing and handling these materials that substantially reduces their sensitivity to electrostatic discharge by adding carbon nanotubes to the mixture, reducing conductivity by almost 10 orders of magnitude without affecting ignition by intentional means. Experiments show that when voltage is applied to materials containing nano-fillers, the materials will not ignite. Current travels through the nanofillers, bypassing the energetic material and preventing it from heating and igniting. The energetic material remains fully responsive to normal ignition methods.



Value Proposition:  Technological benefits: 1) Electrostatic Discharge Resistance by adding carbon nanotubes to the mixture: the risk of ignition by electrostatic discharge is greatly reduced by almost 10 orders of magnitude without affecting ignition by intentional means. 2) Fire-proof Pyrotechnics: the risk of ignition by exposure to accidental fire is greatly reduced by a technique for making composite energetic materials inherently resistant to accidental ignition by fire by including an additive that breaks down at lower heating rates associated with fire. After the material has been exposed to fire, it can no longer be detonated by higher ignition rates. If the material is not exposed to accidental fire, it performs as designed when intentionally detonated. 3) Flexible Energetics: flexible material can be used in many applications where standard composite energetic materials would fail. 4) The Hybrid Exploding Bridge Wire (HEBW): provides resistance to electrostatic discharge and a much smaller pressure wave that is compatible with energetics in loose powder form. 5) The Tactical Timed Firing Device (TTFD): has a countdown timer on key that provides an extra margin of safety, unit/key verification prevents use by unauthorized persons.

Applications: Military, police, mining, infrastructure, quarrying, oil and gas exploration.



National Innovation Awardee

Organization Type: Academic/Gov Lab



Vetted Programs/Awards: None.

SBIR/STTR Awards: None.

External Funding to Date: All of the research was funded by the Department of Energy.