Scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory recently synthesized a new material called bis-isoxazole tetranitrate, or BITN, with potential applications in propulsion and lethality.

Dr. Jesse J. Sabatini, team leader of the Energetics Synthesis Team within ARL's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, leads efforts to synthesize a new material called bis-isoxazole tetranitrate, or BITN, with potential applications in propulsion and lethality. (U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

"BITN has a strong potential for improving insensitive munitions characteristics for gun and rocket propellants" said Dr. Jesse J. Sabatini, team leader of the Energetics Synthesis Team within ARL's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate.

Insensitive munitions are chemically stable enough to withstand mechanical shocks, fire and impact by shrapnel, but still explode as intended to destroy their targets, he said. The Joint Insensitive Munitions Technology Program funds efforts to improve response to several scenarios, such as slow cook-off, bullet and fragment impact.

"It's been extremely challenging due to the bulk of sensitive energetic ingredients typically used in many of these munitions," Sabatini said.

In an effort to develop even denser, higher-performing energetic ingredients for propellant and explosive applications, Army researchers are now making derivatives of BITN. Sabatini predicted the derivatives will have high densities, detonation pressures and detonation velocities.

"In assessing whether BITN and its derivatives are suitable targets to be synthesized, we have been consulting with colleagues at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama," Sabatini said.

"The collaboration serves as a prime example as to what can be accomplished when organizations work together. AMRDEC approached us with a particular need, and we were honored to play a role in helping them." The laboratory's mission is to discover, innovate and transition science and technology capabilities. Researchers seek to facilitate lethality development across a broad range of Army missions, and conduct research in materials science to ensure "rapid and affordable development of materials, from discovery to delivery, critical to the Army of the future," Sabatini said.

In a scholarly paper published in December 2015's Crystals, "Recent Advances in the Synthesis of High Explosive Materials," Sabatini and co-author Dr. Karl D. Oyler from the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, outline processing improvement and formulating aspects used in synthesizing energetic materials.

"There is an ever-increasing need for the development of new energetic materials for explosive applications," they wrote. "This includes, but is not limited to, the area of primary explosives and secondary high explosives. It will be interesting to follow its progress in future years, as many of these ingredients move past the basic research area, and progress into an applied research setting to be investigated in various formulations.

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