Basic Research in the Use of Hot Metal Particles in Ignition of Propellant
Stephen L. HowardU.S. Army Research LaboratoryAberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21005-5066
Recent research has indicated that plasma ignition (1-3) is a capable method toprovide precision ignition, performance temperature compensation, as well as satisfactoryignition of high-loading density, high-energy propellants. However, the required electricalpower supplies make this approach, in general, untenable. Recently, the advent of novel/nanoenergetic materials has provided a possibility to develop igniter materials that relyupon chemical energy to mimic key elements of plasma performance. In particular for thisstudy, an element purported to be a major player in plasma ignition(4-5) i.e., a cloud of hot metal particles, was studied. Novel metal-containing ignitermaterials have been characterized for this effect in a new fixture designed for this purpose. Aseries of propellants have been tested and ranked according to ignitability. While someresearchers such as Stiegman (6) have added explosive materials to the nanoenergeticmaterial in an effort to enhance gas generation or to decrease initiation times, this study usesa standard military primer to ignite the nanoenergetic material in order to ascertain the effectsof the resulting metal cloud upon fielded military propellants with the eventual goal of amore effective igniter with a smaller threat sensitivity cross section.
When the primer in a weapon or other ignition system functions properly and the restof the ignition train follows suit, the result is a rather smooth and rapid pressurization of themain propellant bed that results in the proper functioning of the round. Electrothermaligniters (ETI) had shown effective ignition initiation of propellant, the possibility of thermal-influenced burn-rate compensation, and satisfactory ignition and combustion of high-loadingdensity, high-energy propellants (1-3, 7-9). Some studies indicated that hot metal particleswere implicated in ETI effectiveness (10, 11). Could hot metal particles be generated bychemical means be as effective as those generated by ETI? Metastable intermolecularcompounds (MICs) had previously been used in laser ignition for generating hot metalparticles (12). The expectation of this study was that such hot and profuse metal particleproduction processes could lead to more effective ignition of hard-to-ignite propellants.
Several earlier studies looked at the operating properties of the flash tube in medium-caliber ammunition (13, 14). Part of these studies was to stress the ignition system in orderto determine marginal ignition stimulus upon propellant. The present study used a modifiedversion of the inert simulator fixture used in those studies. The fixture (see Figures 1 and 2)________________________________
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