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High Performance Energetic Propellant Ingredient Process Research and Development


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials/Processes, Weapons

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PEO IWS; LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package; Hellfire

OBJECTIVE: Scale-up, characterize, and provide homogeneous samples of new high density energetic materials sufficient for manufacturing and characterizing a representative propellant formulation. Methods for the preparation of representative advanced energetic ingredients whose energy output exceeds HMX but with superior safety and handling characteristics are sought. The ultimate goal is to create new ingredients which have an optimized chemical route for their preparation that minimizes the number of process steps, and minimizes the costs of starting materials and reagents.

DESCRIPTION: To meet the needs of the future military, there is a continuous effort to develop new materials with higher performance and increased insensitivity to thermal degradation and physical shock and impact. Researchers have adopted many approaches to overcome the technical issues of combining performance with insensitivity, including developing novel energetic ingredients with reduced sensitivity. Our currently used energetic ingredients have been in use, in some cases, for over a century. Without new high performance, low sensitivity energetic ingredients, we will continue to be unable to address the paradox of increased energy with decreased sensitivity.

In order to demonstrate viability in an energetic formulation which permits a weapon system to meet mission capability requirements, a new energetic material must demonstrate reproducibility at low cost. Furthermore, the formulation utilizing a new ingredient must exhibit sufficient mechanical and chemical robustness to meet service requirements over a wide temperature range to meet mission capability requirements. To meet these stringent conditions, the energetic material must exhibit stability against chemical and physical degradation under storage and operational environments throughout a service life that can exceed 20 years. Impact, friction, ESD, density, and vacuum thermal stability (VTS) should meet or be improved over the properties of HMX. The next generation of energetic ingredients will permit propulsion system designers to meet the requirements for smaller systems with increased performance and reduced vulnerability to thermal, impact and shock stimuli while eliminating or reducing the use of ammonium perchlorate – a long-term environmental issue for the DoD. The focus of this effort is to identify promising candidate energetic ingredients, scale-up and optimize a process for manufacturing them, and then produce sufficient quantity to allow a propellant formulator to manufacture and characterize their performance in a propellant composition.

PHASE I: Design and prepare conceptual synthesis routes to new oxidizer molecules. Down select and synthesize up to 25-g samples of these new materials by considering how these materials properties compare to the following target properties:
Density > 1.8 g/cc
Oxygen content > CO Balance
Melting Point >200°C
Minimize the number of of Synthetic Steps
Low Vapor Pressure
Sensitivities better than TNT
Low Hydrogen & Carbon; High Oxygen & Nitrogen content

Provide characterization, analysis, and delivery to government laboratories for evaluation.

PHASE II: Based on Phase I effort, scale-up and optimize the synthesis process to pound quantities for larger-scale evaluation. Investigate process research and establish parameters to develop process for manufacturing pure material for delivery of 2000lb per year.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Transition technology to next generation propulsion and ordnance systems per appropriate PEO/PMS/PMA road maps. Provide costing and data package for pilot production of materials based on requirements and need. Examples include missile systems and new underwater explosives. Potential custom oxidizer applications in synthesis can be envisioned, particularly for stable, long-shelf life material for commercial heavy lift space craft such as Space X. Other potential applications may be found with NASA.


    • Philip E. Eaton, Mao-Xi Zhang, Richard Gilardi, Nat Gelber 3, Sury Iyer, Rao Surapaneni, Prop., Explos., Pyrotech, 27, 1, 2002.


    • A.T. Nielsen, S. Barbara, Caged Polynitramine Compound, U.S. Patent 5,693,794, 1997-12-02.


  • Subbiah Venkatachalam, Gopalakrishnan Santhosh, Kovoor Ninan Ninan Propellants, Explosives, Pyrotechnics 29, 178, 2004.

KEYWORDS: Oxidizer; Propellants; Propulsion; Explosives; High-Density; Scale-up

  • TPOC-1: Clifford Bedford
  • Email:
  • TPOC-2: Matthew Beyard
  • Email:

Questions may also be submitted through DoD SBIR/STTR SITIS website.

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