Penetration testing of explosives – on the right is the penetration of a 30 gram HMX shaped charge, and on the left is the penetration of a 30 gram CL-20 shaped charge (Photo: US Navy)
Detonation of a laser-guided warhead on an armored personnel carrier (Photo: Eglin AFB 780th Test Squadron)
Left: Chemical schematic of CL-20. Right: Three-dimensional ball and stick model of CL-20. Black balls are carbon atoms, blue balls are nitrogen atoms, red balls are oxygen atoms, and white balls are hydrogen atoms (Image: Wikipedia)
Detonation properties of a 2:1 CL-20:HMX cocrystal compared to those of its components (Image: University of Michigan)
The advent of unmanned combat vehicles is generating a need for smaller weapon systems to fit their reduced dimensions. As a result, more powerful explosives are being sought to get the most performance from smaller warheads. Introduction of new explosives is a rather slow process, as premature detonation of an explosive is extremely embarrassing. The desire for higher-performance explosives persists, though, so explosive chemists get used to dancing along the edge of instability. Fortunately, new chemistry occasionally appears that pushes the edge back a bit. The recent synthesis of a stable, high-performance explosive by a research team at the University of Michigan indicates that such new chemistry is now at hand.
Other Images from this Gallery