Nanoenergetics in Explosives and Propellants

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The field of nanoenergetics is relatively new.  Military applications and the evolving nature of war, require that weapons be much more deadly as well as much more accurate.  Scientists are developing new types of nanoenergetics ranging from metastable intermolecular composites (MIC) to nanosolution gels (sol-gels) to functionalized carbon nanotubes

MICs are useful in neutralizing chemical or biological agents, or as propellents.  MICs are manufactured using a dynamic gas dispersion technique.  Sol-gels are cheap alternatives to conventional explosives and are more energetic and environmentally friendly to manufacture.  Sol-gels are essentially nanogel suspensions evaporated to become a moldable, stable gel.  Lastly, functionalized carbon nanotube energetic materials are explosive particles encapsulated in CNTs.  This CNT nanoencapsulation technique produces energetic materials with the same or more energy as conventional energetics, but has increased handling and long-term stability.

These novel explosives exploit the highly exothermic properties of iron, oxygen, copper, aluminum and molybdenum compounds at the nanoparticle scale.  The result of these technology innovations are energetic materials that are more powerful, less expensive, safer to handle and process, and can be cast or incorporated into multiple different shapes and applications. 

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The three technologies outlined above offer enhancements in the precision and explosiveness of energetic materials. Additionally, the technologies reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing energetic materials.

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The potential benefits of nanoenergetics are more powerful and precise weapons that are safer to handle and store, thus reducing collateral damage and civilian casualties.

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The new manufacturing processes reduce the risks to human health, but the risks to the human condition and the ecological risks are increased with this technology. Explosives that are more powerful bring with it more powerful implications when used for nefarious purposes. Who controls the technology and how it is used determines the risks to the human condition. Upon detonation of one of these devices, nanoparticles are aerosolized and may eventually accumulate in the environment, proving to be ecologically destructive. The environmental risk associated with these devices depends largely on the nanoparticles involved and their fate and transport. More research will need to be conducted to determine the precise risks posed by nanoenergetic materials.

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