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An Examination of Blast and Impulse Effects from Metal-Loaded Explosives

Victor E. Sanders, Jonathan M. Zucker, John M. McAfee, Bryce C. Tappan, and Blaine W Asay Dynamic and Energetic Materials Division Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, USA 87545

Abstract. Explosive compositions loaded with various metal particulates were produced and tested using a unique experimental configuration. The high explosive HMX was used as the standard and was tested over a range of mass loading fractions using tungsten and tantalum as metal additives. The diagnostics used in this set of experiments included free-field blast sensors, dynamic force sensors, time-of-arrival sensors, and a high-speed digital camera. The experimental arrangement allowed for concurrent spatial measurements of the static pressure from expanding gaseous detonation products, along with the total force from the combination of gaseous products and solid particles. The total pressure from the multi-phase products was calculated by measuring the total force applied to the surface of a newly developed force sensor. The results from the force sensor and other measurement techniques were validated against existing numerical methods. The relationship between static and dynamic pressures as a function of metal loading fraction was examined empirically at several distances from the charge for two distinct metal additives.

INTRODUCTION The effects on the detonation characteristics and blast wave behavior from the addition of metal particulates to high explosives have been studied for several years. Numerous phenomena have been observed including changes in detonation speed and pressure, blast overpressure, and impulsive loading. The effects on detonation and their possible origins have seen the attention of many research efforts. Concurrent research has been performed on the postdetonation behavior of metal-loaded explosives. Specifically, enhanced blast effects from the addition of reactive metals and increased impulse from the addition of inert metals. Both result in post-detonation behaviors that are not accurately described by traditional methods for ideal blast waves or commonly used cube-root scaling laws.

The nature of metal loaded explosives and their multi-phase products are problematic for accepted methods of describing homogeneous explosives whose products are almost exclusively in the gas phase. Namely, difficulties arise due to the heterogeneous initial explosive composition and how that affects the shock propagation through the material. The behavior of the shock front through the heterogeneous explosive and the subsequent effect on the expanding products has been investigated numerically and empirically by many researchers.1-4 The blast behavior may also be confounded by other factors such as metal ignition delay, combustion rate, heat transfer, particle drag, particle interactions, and the flow interactions between solid particles and the surrounding gas. The focus of this work was to examine empirically the blast overpressure and impulse owing to the loading of dense inert and reactive metals.

Specifically, to measure the dynamic loading due to the stagnation of the multi-phase flow and to differentiate the loading of the metal additives from that of the gaseous detonation products. A quantitative diagnostic technique was developed that allowed for concurrent spatial measurements of the static overpressure (Pstatic) from expanding detonation products, along with the total pressure (Ptotal) due to the stagnation of the combination of gaseous products and solid particles. The measurement used existing techniques for measuring the static overpressure and a new technique for determining the total pressure from the multi-phase blast flow. EXPERIMENTAL The experimental design consisted of a spherical explosive charge positioned one meter above the ground surrounded by an array of diagnostics at varying distances. The explosive was comprised of HMX and a cast-curable binder based on a two-part amine-acrylate epoxy. Varying fractions of tungsten or tantalum were added as the principle variable. Both metal additives were spherical and had a nominal particle diameter of 100 m as reported by their manufacturers.5,6 The cast-cureable binder was used to facilitate ease of production and rapid testing. The mixture of HMX, binder, and metal additive were mixed using a high-shear mixer. Once formulated, the explosives were cast into two hemispheres with a small void space in the center to allow for a 3 g booster of Composition C-4 and an exploding bridgewire (EBW) detonator. Upon placement of the detonator and booster, the two hemispheres were positioned together to form a sphere and subsequently allowed to cure. The total explosive mass in each test charge consisted of 227 g of HMX, 3 g of Composition C-4, and ~0.625 g of HE in the detonator. The amount of metal particulates varied from 28% 80% by mass, or approximately 3% 30% by volume. The mass of binder was varied to maintain a constant volume fraction with respect to the total charge volume. As the mass of high explosive was kept constant, the total volume of the charge increased with increased metal loading fraction. The total initial volume of each charge varied from approximately 15 cm3 165 cm3.

Diagnostics were placed at distances of 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, and 3.0 meters from the explosive and 1 m off of the ground, in an array as shown in Figure 1. The diagnostics were arranged such that at each measurement position, the static overpressure and total (stagnation) pressure were individually recorded. The captured static and total pressures allowed for determination of the dynamic pressure. A simplified representation is shown in equation 1:

Ptotal = Pstatic + Pdynamic


The free-field sensors were aimed toward the center of each test charge such that the sensor face was parallel (side on) to the direction of the flow and vertical with respect to the ground. The free-field transducers were mounted onto 1.27 cm diameter aluminum rods and mounted as to minimize disturbance to the flow of the blast wave.

Fig. 1. Diagnostic array showing spherical charge surrounded by diagnostics. For measuring the total pressure a unique diagnostic was employed, as shown in Figure 2. It consisted of three dynamic force sensors spaced symmetrically around a common center, along a common radius and sandwiched between two steel plates. The front plate provided a surface for interaction with the blast flow and the rear plate allowed for mounting. The force sensors and plates were then attached to heavy concrete blocks such that upon collision of a blast wave, the blocks did not move, allowing for complete transfer of

momentum to the mounted front plate and, therefore, the force sensors. The force recorded by the three sensors was then summed to obtain the total force on the plate. In using this technique we assume the flow to be isentropic and incompressible and that the flow is completely stagnated at the front surface of the plate. In addition, we assume that collisions between solid particles and the force plates are completely inelastic. This assumption is not unreasonable as Ames et al. calculated that at high impact speeds, particle collisions are nearly inelastic.1 The plate thickness, steel type, and sensor-mounting radius were all optimized based on the pressures expected from the charge mass and measurement distances using the built-in finite elemental analysis code Mechanica. The frontal area of the plate was 645.16 cm2.7

sensor surface with a thin layer of silicone grease approximately 0.254 mm thick as recommended by the manufacturer.8 Example waveforms collected from the total force measurement and static overpressure measurement are shown in Figure 3. To distinguish the peak overpressure we fit an exponential to the top portion of the waveform and evaluate it at the time of arrival of the blast. This technique helps limit the effects of noise or sensor overshoot and provides more consistent results. For force measurements we first sum the data from the three sensors and subsequently fit a polynomial to the top portion of the total and then select the peak value. We then divide by the area of the plate to determine the total pressure. We also calculated the impulse per unit area by time integration of both types of measurements.

Fig. 2. Total force measuring device consisting of three sensors sandwiched between two plates. Sensors mounted along a radius of 4.71 cm. The free-field sensors were obtained from PCB Piezotronics. For the force plate, force sensor models from PCB Piezotronics and Omega Engineering were used. The measurements from each sensor type were recorded using several models of Tektronix 500 MHz digital oscilloscopes operating at various intervals and total recording times. All of the pressure measurements reported are gauge and not corrected to absolute pressure unless otherwise noted. The free-field sensors used were protected from possible thermal effects by insulating the

Fig. 3. Example waveforms from static overpressure and total force measurements. RESULTS Expanding blast waves from detonating high explosives have been accurately described by many researchers.9-11 In this examination, we use the tabulated information provided by Kinney and Graham for the reference explosive TNT to validate our measured results.11 We used the information given and the equations provided to solve for peak overpressure at each measurement distance for the reference explosive, and corrected for the average atmospheric conditions experienced during our tests. We then multiplied

that overpressure by a TNT equivalency factor of 1.3 which, is approximate for HMX with a binder.12,13 In Figure 4, we plotted the reference explosive peak overpressure values at each measurement distance, labeled as Calculated. We then plotted the measured peak overpressure from the experiments containing HMX and the different tungsten metal loadings. Our data for neat HMX and binder are in excellent agreement with the calculated values for the theoretical reference explosive. The graph also shows that at close ranges, there is an incremental decrease in peak overpressure related to the increasing metal loading fraction.

metal additive. In both figures, the order of the reduced peak overpressure is consistent with the order of increased metal loading fraction to distances of 1 m. Beyond 1 m the trend begins to appear disordered and, with the exception of the highest loading fraction, converge to similar values. This convergence is analogous to the behavior seen in Figure 4. However, the overpressure values for tantalum-loaded charges are measurably different from those of tungstenloaded charges. Peak overpressures are considerably lower in the far field with tantalumloaded charges (2.0 m 3.0 m).

Fig. 4. Peak overpressure measured with free-field sensors plotted versus distance for tungsten loaded HMX. The recorded overpressures follow a near exponential decrease with respect to distance from the charge, which is typical for blast waves. Of particular interest is the incremental difference in overpressure at close range. This difference in peak overpressure is related to the partitioning of energy required to expand the gas-phase detonation products and the energy needed to accelerate the metal particles. This is consistent with research reported by Zhang et al. and Frost et al. where they show that at comparable scaled distances, peak overpressure from homogeneous nitromethane (NM) charges is approximately 2 3 times higher than that from NM loaded with spherical steel particles.3,4 The data plotted in Figure 5 further illustrate the effect, however with tantalum as the

Fig. 5. Peak overpressure measured with free-field sensors plotted versus distance for tantalum loaded HMX. Figures 6 and 7 show the calculated percent decrease in overpressure from the neat HMX/Binder values plotted for the first three measurement distances against the range of loading fractions. Linear fits are used to fit the data and seem reasonable at 0.5 and 1 m. At 1.5 m and beyond (not plotted) the percent decrease is much more scattered but maintains the trend that an increase in metal loading fraction leads to a larger difference in peak overpressure across the range of measurement distances. Research by others has shown a similar effect beyond the nearfield such that at increasing distances, not only does the peak overpressure decrease, but the difference between an ideal blast and a blast from a heterogeneous explosive also decreases.1,3

increasing distances from the charge. The result is limited contribution from solid particles to the total force applied to the force plates beyond 1.5 meters.

Fig. 6. Fractional decrease in peak pressure between the formulation with zero added tungsten and the remaining mass loading fractions. Fig. 8. Pdynamic for tungsten loaded HMX calculated from the difference in recorded values for Ptotal and Pstatic. Values shown are the average of either 2 or 3 experiments with error bars representing +/- the standard deviation.

Fig. 7. Fractional decrease in peak pressure between the formulation with zero added tantalum and the remaining mass loading fractions. Careful positioning of the free-field sensors and force plates at equal distances from the explosive charge allowed for calculation of the dynamic pressure. This was accomplished by rearranging Equation 1, since the force plates measure Ptotal and the free-field sensors measure Pstatic. Figures 8 and 9 show the results of this calculation plotted as dynamic pressure versus distance from the charge. As shown, the dynamic pressure appears to approach zero after a short distance. This can be partially explained by the difference in individual particle trajectories and subsequent spatial and temporal dispersion at Fig. 9. Pdynamic for tantalum loaded HMX. Values shown are the average of either 2 or 3 experiments with error bars representing +/- the standard deviation. Since metal particles may not contribute significantly to Pdynamic beyond 1.5 m, and the difference between Ptotal and Pstatic approaches zero at those distances suggests that there is also not a significant contribution to Pdynamic from the gasphase products. This can be accounted for by

relating the dynamic pressure to the Mach number. Equation 2 shows this relation as derived in.11

Pdyn. =

1 M 2P 2


diameters), the effects could be substantial due to the energy and momentum transfer.3 This result of the solid only dynamic pressure calculations are plotted for the first three distances as a function of loading fraction in Figure 10 for tungsten-loaded HMX and Figure 11 for tantalum-loaded HMX.

Where P is the local stream pressure, M the stream Mach number, and the ratio of specific heats. Assuming =1.4 we calculate the Mach number for the explosive mass and measurement distances used. At a distance of 3 meters the Mach number approaches 1 and so it is reasonable that the contribution to the dynamic pressure from the gasphase is small. To further isolate the effects from solid particle loading we separate the Pdynamic term in equation (1) into two distinct terms and rearrange:



= Ptotal




(3) Fig. 10. Dynamic solid loading for three distances across the range of metal loading fractions from tungsten-loaded HMX.

We then use the previously determined dynamic pressure from the tests with no metal loading (Figures 8 and 9) as the term for Pdyn.-gas. In other words, the dynamic pressure for the experiments with zero metal loading is subtracted from the remaining dynamic pressure for each of the metal loaded charges. The result is the dynamic pressure from the solid particle loading only. The method described assumes there is no difference on the flow of the gas-phase products from varying the initial amount of solid particulates. This assumption is not unreasonable as the volume fractions used in our tests vary over the limited range of 3% to 30% initially and at the maximum measurement radius, the ratio of solid volume to total volume is approximately 3 x 10-6. Typically, two-phase flows with the particulate phase representing < 0.0001% of the total volume, are considered dilute. These systems are generally regarded as one-way coupled such that the gas influences the behavior of the particulate while the reverse is negligible.14 This reinforces the assumption that the changes in metal content used in this study have a negligible effect on the gasphase dynamic loading at these distances. However, in the near field (a few charge

Fig. 11. Dynamic solid loading for three distances across the range of metal loading fractions from tantalum-loaded HMX. The plots show that the effective dynamic loading from solid particles has a strong dependence on loading fraction and is not evenly distributed over the distances shown. In addition, the differences between the two types of metal additives are

apparent. The two graphs are shown with equivalent axes for comparison. The increased contribution to the dynamic force from the tantalum-loaded charges in the near field at the intermediate loading fractions is a function of both lower values of Pstatic along with higher values of Ptotal. Of particular interest is the magnitude of the difference between the total pressures measured with the force plates at 45 % loading fraction. This trend is not consistent at each distance nor across the entire range of metal loading. Interestingly, Lanovets et al. use a numerical approach to describe particle dispersion. They describe a monotonic increase in momentum transfer from solid, inert particles corresponding to an increase in the mass of the particles up to one third of the mass of the explosive, ie. 30 % by weight.15 Our results show the maximum particle loading in the range of approximately 40 60 weight percent for charges loaded with tungsten and tantalum. In the calculations performed by Lanovets et al., a maximum particle density of 5.0 g/cm3 is reported. Our particle densities are approximately 3 4 times higher which may explain a shift from their calculated maximum momentum transfer relating to a mass ratio of 1/3 to our maximum, which is approximately a ratio of 1 (increase by a factor of 3 4). Similarly, the maximum contribution from solid particle loading may correspond to the volume fraction of metal to explosive. Our results for both metal types, and the calculations performed by Lanovets et al., both correspond to a volume fraction of metal additive of approximately 10 %.15 For determining the effects of the different metal loading fractions on impulse per unit area, we used a similar technique to that described above for determining dynamic pressure. We first performed time integration of the measured total pressures and static pressures to determine the impulse per area from each measurement. We then subtracted the two to determine the impulse per area from dynamic pressure. We then subtracted the impulse per area as determined from the experiments containing zero metal loading and used that as the term for the gas-phase impulse. By rearranging equation 4 we

then determined the contribution to impulse per area from solid products only ( Pdyn.-solid(t)dt).

( I / A )total =
+ Pdyn.

Pstatic ( t )dt + Pdyn.


(t )dt

solid ( t ) dt


The results of this technique are shown in Figure 12 for tungsten-loaded charges and Figure 13 for charges loaded with tantalum.

Fig. 12. Solid contribution to impulse per area for Tungsten loaded charges. Error propagated from Pstatic(t)dt and Pdynamic(t)dt.

Fig. 13. Contribution to impulse per area of solid products from Tantalum loaded charges. Error propagated from Pstatic(t)dt and Pdynamic(t)dt.

SUMMARY We have successfully fielded a unique diagnostic technique for use in multiphase blast flows. The technique allows for measurements of the combined total (stagnation) pressure from gas and solid phase products using a newly developed force measurement plate. Used in conjunction with existing methods for recording static pressure, the dynamic force and impulse per area from the loading of solid particles can be determined. The data suggest the maximum dynamic pressure and impulse is related to the volume fraction of metal to explosive. The maximum contribution for this set of experiments was measured at approximately 45- 60 wt. % or approximately 10 % by volume for each metal additive. We have reported the results of a comparison between metal additives with similar particle size, density, and morphology. The comparison reveals similar overall behavior, yet distinct contributions from the combustion of the reactive species. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We would like to thank Peter Dickson, Tim Foley, and Alan Novak for their technical expertise and assistance with diagnostic development. We owe many thanks to Joe Lloyd, Jonathan Romero, and Angelo Cartelli for their efforts performing experiments during winter in the mountains of New Mexico. REFERENCES 1. Ames, R. G., Murphy, M.J., Groves, S.E., Cunard, D. Characterization of Multiple-Phase Explosive Formulations; International Shock and Vibration Conference, 2004. 2. Baer, M. R., Schmitt, R.G., Hertel, E.S., DesJardin, P.E. Fluid Structure Interaction and Moving Boundary Problems 2005, 84, 393. 3. Frost, D. L., Ornthanalai, C., Zarei, Z., Tanguay, V., Zhang, F. Journal of Applied Physics 2007, 101. 4. Zhang, F., Frost, D. L., Thibault, P.A., Murray, S.B. Shock Waves 2001, 10, 431. 5. Inframat Advanced Materials,, 2009.

6. Accumet Materials Co.,, 2009. 7. Novak, A. M., Foley T.J., Dickson, P.M., Personal communication for diagnostic design, 2008. 8. PCB. Free-Field ICP Blast Pressure Sensor Operating Manual; Piezotronics, Ed., 2009. 9. Baker, W. E. Explosions in Air, 1973. 10. Dewey, J. M. The Air Velocity in Blast Waves from t.n.t. Explosions; Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, 1964. 11. Kinney, G. F., Graham, K. J. Explosive Shocks in Air, 2nd Edition ed.; Springer-Verlag New York, 1985. 12. Maeinshein, J. L. Estimating Equivalency Of Explosives Through A Thermochemical Approach, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UCRL-JC-147683 2002. 13. Cooper, P. W. Comments on TNT Equivalence; 20th International Pyrotechnics Seminar, 1994. 14. Multiphase Flow Handbook; Crowe, Ed.; CRC Press: Boca Raton, 2006. 15. Lanovets, V. S., Levich, V.A., Rogov, N.K., Tunik, Y.V., Shamshev, K.N. . Combustion, Explosion, and Shock Waves 1993, 29, 638. DISCUSSION Paul Wilkins, LLNL Did you measure the mass fraction gained on the target plates to determine the aggregate velocity of impact for the metal loading particles? REPLY BY VICTOR SANDERS We did not measure the mass gained from particle impacts; however, having done so may have revealed valuable insight into the nature of the inelasticity of the collisions between particles and target plates.