In operando measurements of high explosives

Dhanalakshmi Sellan, Xuan Zhou, Lawrence Salvati, Siva Kumar Valluri, Dana D. Dlott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In operando studies of high explosives involve dynamic extreme conditions produced as a shock wave travels through the explosive to produce a detonation. Here, we describe a method to safely produce detonations and dynamic extreme conditions in high explosives and in inert solids and liquids on a tabletop in a high-throughput format. This method uses a shock compression microscope, a microscope with a pulsed laser that can launch a hypervelocity flyer plate along with a velocimeter, an optical pyrometer, and a nanosecond camera that together can measure pressures, densities, and temperatures with high time and space resolution (2 ns and 2 μm). We discuss how a detonation builds up in liquid nitromethane and show that we can produce and study detonations in sample volumes close to the theoretical minimum. We then discuss how a detonation builds up from a shock in a plastic-bonded explosive (PBX) based on HMX (1,3,5,7-Tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocane), where the initial steps are hotspot formation and deflagration growth in the shocked microstructure. A method is demonstrated where we can measure thermal emission from high-temperature reactions in every HMX crystal in the PBX, with the intent of determining which configurations produce the critical hot spots that grow and ignite the entire PBX.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number224202
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number22
StatePublished - Dec 14 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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