Reactive material

Reactive material

In military, reactive materials (RM) are new class of materials currently being investigated by the Office of Naval Research and others as a mean to increase the lethality of direct-hit or fragmentation warheads. Reactive materials are usually thermite-like pyrotechnic compositions of two or more nonexplosive solid materials, which stay inert and do not react with each other until subjected to a sufficiently strong mechanical stimulus, after which they undergo fast burning or explosion with release of high amount of chemical energy in addition to their kinetic energy. Fragments or projectiles made of such materials have therefore greater damaging effect than inert ones, with expected lethality increase up to 500%.

The material classes under investigation are thermites, intermetallic compounds, metal-polymer mixtures (e.g. Magnesium/Teflon/Viton-like), metastable intermolecular composites (MIC), matrix materials, and hydrides. [] They have to be strong enough to act as structural components and be able to penetrate the target, sufficiently stable to survive handling and launch, and sufficiently unstable to reliably ignite on impact.

The mixtures under investigation include one or more finely powdered (down to nanoparticle size) metalloids or metals like aluminium, magnesium, zirconium, titanium, tungsten, tantalum, or hafnium, with one or more oxidizers like teflon or other fluoropolymer, pressed or sintered or bonded by other method to a compact, high-density mass. To achieve a suitable reaction rate and insensitivity to impact, friction, and electrostatic discharge, fuel particles have sizes usually between 1-250 µm. [] [] A standard composition is aluminium-teflon (Al-PTFE).

The RM weapons under development include an active protection system defensive grenade for interception of incoming missiles or grenades and detonation of them in a safe distance, and the BattleAxe warhead that covers a wide area with RM fragments with devastating results to soft targets, while the unexploded fragments left behind having very low lethality in comparison with conventional cluster bomb leftovers.

External links

* [ Popular Mechanics: Better Bombs: Scientists develop metal that explodes on impact]
* [ SpaceRef: Better warheads through plastic]
* [ Wired: In Next-Gen Bullets and Bombs, Even the Casing Explodes]

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