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High Voltage Fireset/Electric Gun System Development


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Advanced Computing and Software; Hypersonics; Advanced Materials


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: Develop a super low inductance HV Fire-set System which focuses on enhancing performance for CDU Switches & HV capacitors subsystem technology components with very low ESR, high peak current (1MA to 2 MA) capability with ultra-fast di/dt current rates with operating ranges from 20 kV to 60 kV to drive 1in Flyer plates.


DESCRIPTION: Both the DoD and DoE explosive research community heavily rely upon HV Fire-set and Pulsed Power Systems to conduct detonation transfer reliability research to characterize the performance of explosive trains for future AF weapon systems. In addition, the described research is strongly tied to developing high fidelity hydro-code numerical models of detonation trains which provides tremendous cost-savings when it comes to weapon and experimental design implementations.


Furthermore, HV Fire-set systems are used for initiation studies to discharge large amounts of energy at ultra-fast di/dt current rates into Explosive Foil Initiators (EFI’s) to quantify detonation transfer performance of various flyer materials, geometries, and thicknesses into insensitive munition (IM) booster materials. Within the Air Force Research Lab, it has been discovered with their current HV fire-set systems that HV CDU capacitance & CDU switch performance is a critical technology base that needs refined development, and is a significant contributor to the overall performance reliability and repeatability of these systems. More importantly, the available energy, energy transfer efficiency, and peak current transfer rate of the HV Fireset system allows for optimum flyer velocities to be achieved. The advancement of CDU switch, HV Capacitor, & trigger technologies may vastly expand the DoD’s and DoE’s capability to conduct more robust experiments in controlling the resolution of achieving various flyer velocities. As a result, higher fidelity data sets can be attained to improve our understanding for detonation train performance and foster robust and reliable designs for future DoD weapon systems.


Key HV Fireset System design problems are prevalently associated with deficiencies in inductance, energy density transfer, and di/dt rates within the overall electrical performance limited by CDU switch performance & HV capacitor parasitic inductance. Development efforts should focus on leveraging both existing HV Pulsed Power switch & capacitor technologies. Switch technologies considered for Fireset integration may include spark gaps, rail gaps, and surface planar discharge gap switches that are either electrically or optically triggered, but not limited to other state of the art. Additionally, the proposers are encouraged to investigate the various cathode, anode, potting, and dielectric insulating materials, implemented for future designs to significantly decrease inductance, increase the life cycle, and ease of maintenance for both switch & capacitor technology. A suite of HV Capacitor & CDU switch design solutions to cover various ranges of operating voltages are acceptable with the goal to achieve the widest range as possible to achieve super high peak current outputs at very di/dt current transfer rates. Ideally, the proposers should have extensive expertise in HV pulsed powered system & capacitor design.


PHASE I: As this is a Direct-to-Phase-II (D2P2) topic, no Phase I awards will be made as a result of this topic. To qualify for this D2P2 topic, the Government expects the applicant(s) to demonstrate feasibility by means of a prior “Phase I-type” effort that does not constitute work undertaken as part of a prior or ongoing SBIR/STTR funding agreement.


The applicant must substantiate the technology maturity level of the pulse power design and system is robust and adequate to integrate into a functional lab tool. Proposals involving nascent technologies (e.g. switch design, pulse power trigger methods, etc.) may be considered based on the proposers proof of the reliability and performance of the device. The overarching goal will be to provide a completely functional fireset system that is operational within the provided design requirements and maintainable by lab technicians.


PHASE II: Develop and construct a fireset system ready per AFRL requirements for lab use. Perform laboratory bench level experiments to demonstrate the performance of the fireset system design. Establish operating voltage range along with the entire systems lump sum R, L, & C parameters including the output load representative to an EFI. In addition, provide ring down and load current waveforms at the various operating voltages.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The DoE and DoD will benefit from the utilization of highly optimized fireset systems, which will advance capabilities to test EFIs beyond conventional energy levels. As a result, extensive experimentation may be performed for advanced detonation transfer studies of novel IM and EFI technologies.



  1. H. Chau, G. Dittbenner, W. Hofer, C. Honodel, D. Steinberg, J. Stroud, R. Weingart and R. Lee, "Electric Gun: A versatile tool for high-pressure shock-wave research," Review of Scientific Instruments, vol. 51, no. 12, pp. 1676-1680, 1980.
  2. R. C. Weingart, R. K. Jackson and C. A. Honodel, "Shock Initiation of PBX-9404 by Electrically Driven Flyer Plates," Propellants and Explosives 5, pp. 158-162, 1980.;


KEYWORDS: HV Pulsed Power; HV Pulsed Power Discharge Capacitor; HV Fireset; HV Electric Gun; Capacitor Discharge Unit

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