Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Questing for the Holy Grail of High Explosives

A molecule invented by Los Alamos scientist David E. Chavez might herald the arrival of a new class of insensitive high explosives.
March 22, 2016
Questing for the Holy Grail of High Explosives

Explosives chemist David Chavez has developed new explosives molecules that offer high energy with enhanced safety—they cannot be detonated by spark, friction, or impact. (Photo: Los Alamos)

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At Los Alamos, the ability to push the frontiers, to do the new thing that no one’s been able to do before, is normal.

The perfect material for detonating nuclear weapons, arm­ing a conventional bomb, mining ore, and even propelling a rocket into space has two seemingly paradoxical characteris­tics: releasing tremendous energy on demand while resisting accidental detonation and remaining stable for its intended life cycle.

That combination of qualities is the Holy Grail in explosives research, according to Los Alamos scientist David E. Chavez of the High Explosives Science and Technology group—and he’s on a promising quest to find it.

In a recent breakthrough, Chavez invented a molecule that could herald the arrival of a new class of insensitive high ex­plosives. The new compound performs nearly as well as conventional explosives but can’t be detonated by a spark, friction, or impact.

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