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posted on 01.03.2021, 21:00 by Akshay Dandekar
Polymer bonded explosives (PBXs) consist of energetic material (EM) crystals embedded inside a polymeric binder. These are highly heterogeneous structures designed to explode under controlled conditions. However, accidental ignition of PBXs leading to deflagration, or even detonation, may take place due to non-shock stimulus such as low velocity impacts and vibration. Thus, assessing the safety of PBXs under non-shock stimulus is very important.

The ignition in PBXs depends on several microstructural features which include mechanical properties of EM particles and polymeric binder, as well as the adhesive properties of interface between EM particles and binder. It is also sensitive to initial defects in EM particles including cracks or voids. EM particle size distribution, distance between particles and their relative location are also shown to be affecting the ignition behavior of PBXs. This study focuses on PBX composition consisting of HMX as EM and Sylgard or HTPB as polymeric binder. Among several mechanisms of hot-spot formation, this study focuses on frictional heating at cracks or debonded surfaces.

Finite element simulations are performed on a domain containing a single EM particle embedded inside polymer binder under compressive and tensile loading at 10 m/s. The effect of the binder properties and the particle surface properties, on damage evolution and corresponding temperature rise due to frictional heat generation, is investigated. Two binders, Sylgard and HTPB, while two surface qualities for HMX particle, low and high, are compared. The adhesion strength of the particle-polymer interface is varied and damage evolution is qualitatively compared with experimental results to estimate interfacial energy release rate for HMX-Sylgard and HMX-HTPB interfaces. Simulations of two HMX particles inside Sylgard binder, subjected to vibration loading, are performed to analyze the effect of particle-particle distance and relative location of particles on the damage evolution and frictional heating in the particles.

The results of impact simulations show that the low surface quality HMX particle inside HTPB is likely to propagate cracks as compared to high surface quality particle. The HMX particle inside Sylgard shows crack propagation irrespective of particle surface quality. The impact simulations with the lower stiffness binder do not show a significant increase in temperature after impact. A polymer with higher stiffness induces more particle damage under impact contributing to a larger temperature rise. Furthermore, high quality surface and higher adhesion strength induces larger stresses and increase the temperature rise. The vibration simulations show that a small particle is less likely to damage when it is shielded by a large particle irrespective of its distance, within 40-200$\mu$m, from the large particle. However, the small particle is likely to damage when it is in parallel to the large particle with respect to loading. The temperature rise in the small particle is higher than the larger particle only in case of parallel configuration. The adhesion between the particles and the polymer has a direct effect on the formation of hot-spots due to friction and through local increase of compressive stresses that may cause a surge in heat generation.

The energetic materials often show anisotropy in elastic and crystalline properties. Fracture in HMX along the preferred cleavage plane is considered. Anisotropy in the elastic constants is also incorporated in the fracture model. The dependence of pressure on temperature is considered using Mie-Gruneisen equation of state which is shown to be important for damage evolution in HMX at impact velocity of 100 m/s.


Air Force Office of Scientific Research (grant no. FA9550-15-1-0102)

Office of Naval Research (MURI contract number N00014-16-1-2557)


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Marisol Koslowski

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Steven Son

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Terrence Meyer

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Weinong Chen