Army scientists synthesize high-performing energetic material

May 18, 2016

By David McNally, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • Scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory recently synthesized a new material called bis-isoxazole tetranitrate, or BITN, with potential applications in propulsion and lethality

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 2, 2016) -- Army scientists are on the trail of new high-performing energetic materials.

Scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory recently synthesized a new material called bis-isoxazole tetranitrate, or BITN, with potential applications in propulsion and lethality.

"BITN has a strong potential for improving insensitive munitions characteristics for gun and rocket propellants" said Dr. Jesse J. Sabatini, team leader of the Energetics Synthesis Team within ARL's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.

Insensitive munitions are chemically stable enough to withstand mechanical shocks, fire and impact by shrapnel, but still explode as intended to destroy their targets, he said.

The Joint Insensitive Munitions Technology Program funds efforts to improve response to several scenarios, such as slow cook-off, bullet and fragment impact.

"It's been extremely challenging due to the bulk of sensitive energetic ingredients typically used in many of these munitions," Sabatini said.

In an effort to develop even denser, higher-performing energetic ingredients for propellant and explosive applications, Army researchers are now making derivatives of BITN. Sabatini predicted the derivatives will have high densities, detonation pressures and detonation velocities.

"In assessing whether BITN and its derivatives are suitable targets to be synthesized, we have been consulting with colleagues at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama," Sabatini said. "The collaboration serves as a prime example as to what can be accomplished when organizations work together. AMRDEC approached us with a particular need, and we were honored to play a role in helping them."

The laboratory's mission is to discover, innovate and transition science and technology capabilities. Researchers seek to facilitate lethality development across a broad range of Army missions, and conduct research in materials science to ensure "rapid and affordable development of materials, from discovery to delivery, critical to the Army of the future," Sabatini said.

In a scholarly paper published in December 2015's Crystals, "Recent Advances in the Synthesis of High Explosive Materials," Sabatini and co-author Dr. Karl D. Oyler from the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, outline processing improvement and formulating aspects used in synthesizing energetic materials.

"There is an ever-increasing need for the development of new energetic materials for explosive applications," they wrote. "This includes, but is not limited to, the area of primary explosives and secondary high explosives. It will be interesting to follow its progress in future years, as many of these ingredients move past the basic research area, and progress into an applied research setting to be investigated in various formulations.

In synthesizing BITN, Sabatini credited the members of his synthesis team.

"Dr. Leah Wingard, Mr. Eric Johnson, and Dr. Pablo Guzman are wonderful scientists on my team," he said. "Their intellectual contributions and skill in the laboratory were critical in getting this material made."

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.


Last Update / Reviewed: May 18, 2016