Innovative Component Technology

Replacing the aged components of nuclear weapons requires a fundamental understanding of how a current component performs and how the new component impacts the performance of the full assembly. Novel diagnostics based on 21st century technology are actively being developed at LANL to characterize performance aspects of explosive detonation systems.

To understand and establish a baseline performance of explosive components and systems, the Laboratory has developed an innovative diagnostic technique that simultaneously employs specialized ultra high speed imaging with surface velocimetry. This method takes advantage of scientific advancements made in the last decade in the form of ultra high speed camera technology and gigahertz digitizers coupled with infrared detector technology.

LANL scientists, such as Steven Clarke and Mike Murphy of the Detonator Technology Group, use these diagnostics to quantify explosive system output in terms of kinematic quantities like position and velocity or thermodynamic quantities like shock pressure and specific internal energy. In turn, these abilities provide B61 team engineers with a useful means of performing equivalence tests for comparing explosive components, allowing the team to make changes to existing components while maintaining the assurance of safety, security, and reliability.

The supersonic shock waveform created by an exploding bridgewire detonator is captured in this image in a five-nanosecond snapshot. LANL component and system engineers and scientists have been working for several years to develop new technology, such as this, in preparation for potential future LEPs.

Image courtesy of Mike Murphy


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