Small-scale Characterization of Homemade Explosives (HMEs)

Download Project Report (Phase 2, Year 4)

Project Description

Homemade Explosives (HMEs) and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are an ever increasing threat to society. Many constituents for HMEs are readily available to terrorists at little cost. Due to the high number of compositions which can be formulated, many HMEs are not well characterized, which increases the difficulty of assessing the threat of certain materials (e.g. the determination of a threat mass). Many HMEs are considered non-ideal explosives, which tend to sustain detonation only in very large diameter charges; therefore, conventional explosive characterization experiments require large amounts of material, and acquire a relatively small amount of data.

Project R1-B.2 develops small-scale experiments in order to safely and quickly characterize the relationship between small-scale and large-scale test data in a cost-efficient manner. Successful characterization of this relationship would provide quantitative information on threats posed by HMEs, including rankings of various HMEs in terms of detonability, and calibration data for model development. The resulting models could then be used to assess threats.


If we can characterize homemade explosives quickly using small samples, we can provide the relative detonability of different compositions, as well as provide data for modeling efforts so that threats can be more accurately predicted.
Year 4 Annual Report
Project Leader
  • Steven F. Son
    Associate Professor
    Purdue University

Students Currently Involved in Project
  • Christian Sorensen
    Purdue University
  • Nick Cummock
    Purdue University