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"The Effect of Nanocomposite Synthesis on the Combustion Performance of a Ternary Thermite"

Daniel Prentice, Michelle L. Pantoya, Brady Clapsaddle

Journal of Physical Chemistry B, v 109, n 43, p 20180-20185 (2005)

Making solid energetic materials requires the physical mixing of solid fuels and oxidizers or the incorporation of fuel and oxidizing moieties into a single molecule. The former are referred to as composite energetic materials (i.e., thermites, propellants, pyrotechnics) and the latter are deemed monomolecular energetic materials (i.e., explosives). Mass diffusion between the fuel and oxidizer is the rate controlling step for composite reactions while bond breaking and chemical kinetics control monomolecular reactions. Although composites have higher energy densities than monomolecular species, they release that energy over a longer period of time because diffusion controlled reactions are considerably slower than chemistry controlled reactions. Conversely, monomolecular species exhibit greater power due to more rapid kinetics than physically mixed energetics. Reducing the diffusion distance between fuel and oxidizer species within an energetic composite would enhance the reaction rate. Recent advances in nanotechnology have spurred the development of nano-scale fuel and oxidizer particles that can be combined into a composite and effectively reduce diffusion distances to nano-scale dimensions or less. These nanocomposites have the potential to deliver the best of both worlds: high energy density of the physically mixed composite with the high power of the monomolecular species. Toward this end, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) developed nano-particle synthesis techniques, based on sol-gel chemistry, for the production of thermite nanocomposites.