Copper explosives on a chip pave way for next-gen “smart” fuze detonators

December 23rd, 2007 - 1:02 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 23 (ANI): A team of scientists has developed tiny copper explosives on a computer chip, which might herald a new type of military detonator in the future.
Developed by a team of scientists from the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and the Indian Head Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the highly uniform copper structures (that are precursors to explosives) will be incorporated into integrated circuits then chemically converted to millimeter-diameter explosives.
Because they can be integrated into standard microelectronics fabrication processes, the copper materials will enable micro-electromechanical (MEMS) fuzes for military munitions to be mass-produced like computer chips for use in U.S. Navy detonators.
“An ability to tailor the porosity and structural integrity of the explosive precursor material is a combination we’ve never had before,” said Jason Nadler, a GTRI research engineer. “We can start with the Navy’s requirements for the material and design structures that are able to meet those requirements. We can have an integrated design tool able to develop a whole range of explosive precursors on different size scales,” he added.
Based on feedback from the Navy scientists, Nadler can tweak the structures to help optimize the overall device known as a fuze which controls when and where a munition will explode.
“We are now able to link structural characteristics to performance,” said Nadler. “We can produce a technically advanced material that can be tailored to the thermodynamics and kinetics that are needed using modeling techniques,” he added.
“GTRI has been able to provide us with material that has well-controlled and well-known characteristics,” said Michael Beggans, a scientist in the Energetics Technology Department of the Indian Head Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
“Having this material allows us to determine the amount of explosive that can be formed in the MEMS fuze. The size of that charge also determines the size and operation of the other components,” he added.
The research will lead to a detonator with enhanced capabilities.
“The long-term goal of the MEMS Fuze program is to produce a low-cost, highly-reliable detonator with built-in safe and arm capabilities in an extremely small package that would allow the smallest weapons in the Navy to be as safe and reliable as the largest,” explained Beggans.
Reducing the size of the fuze is also a part of a long-term strategy toward smarter weapons intended to reduce the risk of collateral damage.
“When you hear that a weapon is ’smart,’ it’s really all about the fuze,” said Beggans. “The fuze is ’smart’ in that it knows the exact environment that the weapon needs to be in, and detonates it at the right time. The MEMS fuze would provide ’smart’ functionality in medium-caliber and sub-munitions, improving results and reducing collateral damage,” he added.
Development and implementation of the new fuze will also have environmental and safety benefits.
“Practical implementation of this technology will enable the military to reduce the quantity of sensitive primary explosives in each weapon by at least two orders of magnitude,” said Gerald R. Laib, senior explosives applications scientist at Indian Head and inventor of the MEMS Fuze concept.
“This development will also vastly reduce the use of toxic heavy metals and waste products, and increase the safety of weapon production by removing the need for handling bulk quantities of sensitive primary explosives,” he added.
The next step will be for the integration of all the components of the fuze into the smallest possible package and then begin producing the device in large quantities. (ANI)

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