Small-scale Characterization of Homemade Explosives (HMEs)

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Project Description

Overview and Significance

Terrorists increasingly use homemade explosives (HMEs) because of low-costs and availability. The specific compositions of HMEs are nearly limitless, so making accurate assessments of the threat from these materials is challenging. Consequently, there is significant interest in quickly characterizing HMEs so that these threats can be more accurately modeled. A significant challenge is the time and cost associated with traditional large-scale tests required to sustain a steady detonation in non-ideal explosives. In this work, we are developing experiments that require only a few grams of material involving transient detonation failure. One approach, employed by us and others, uses microwave interferometry (MI) to continuously track the position of shock and detonation waves inside the test sample; other approaches use the detonation wave to close and continually change the resistance of a simple circuit, and this will be explored for use in this work. Overall, a highly time-resolved profile of the location of the detonation front can be measured. These measured failure dynamics allow for the characterization of non-ideal explosives over a wide parameter space (from overdriven to failure). These small-scale experiments provide detailed data relatively quickly and at a lower cost than alternatives.

Achievable MI signals in explosives are often of a low quality and velocity measurements in non-ideal systems remain challenging. Total reflection of the MI signal is never realized due to partial transmission through the wave front of interest, as well as attenuation of the signal due to absorption and dispersion effects in the explosive media.
Phase 2 Year 2 Annual Report
Project Leader
  • Steven F. Son
    Associate Professor
    Purdue University

Faculty and Staff Currently Involved in Project
  • Lori J. Groven
    Assistant Professor
    South Dakota School of Mines

Students Currently Involved in Project
  • David Kittell
    Purdue University
  • Peter Renslow
    Purdue University
  • Nick Cummock
    Purdue University