Soldiers with Charlie Battery, 1-377 FA fire an M198, 155mm howitzer during a recent combined live-fire exercise.
Soldiers with Charlie Battery, 1-377 FA fire an M198, 155mm howitzer during a recent combined live-fire exercise. (Photo Credit: Spc. Lucas T. Swihart) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- For the U.S. Army, advances in energetic materials means more powerful explosives, pyrotechnics and propellants. Army chemists are on the hunt for the right mix of energetic materials that will make American Soldiers stronger and safer.

In a recent article, scientists announced promising results from a new process for the safe and scalable synthesis of explosive precursor compounds known as aminofurazans.

“The process developed by our team has been demonstrated to be safe and reliable, and can be prepared on large scales without difficulty to pave the way for new energetic materials,” said Dr. Jesse Sabatini, the lead research chemist on this project. “Previous reported syntheses of these compounds were dangerous to perform and resulted in low amounts of product being obtained.”

The Organic Process Research & Development Publication of the American Chemical Society published the paper April 6: A Safer Synthesis of the Explosive Precursors 4-Aminofurazan-3-Carboxylic Acid and its Ethyl Ester Derivative.

The research may also interest the pharmaceutical industry for the development of medicinal drugs, Sabatini said. But the surprising scientific achievement, he said, was that previous methods of making these materials were not correctly reported in the literature.

“While the previous syntheses were dangerous and led to zero product being obtained, the syntheses reported in our paper are safe, scalable and reliable,” Sabatini said.

This research addresses the Army Modernization Priority of Long-Range Precision Fires and improving Soldier Lethality. The Army is on a journey to transform into a multi-domain force by 2035, and meet its enduring responsibility as part of the Joint Force to provide for the defense of the United States, and retain its position as the globally dominant land power.

“We are optimistic that these aminofurazan precursors will result in us making future energetic targets to satisfy the development of higher-performing explosive and propellant applications,” Sabatini said.

Development of new explosive and propellant ingredients that transition to the formulators is the main driving force of the research.

“In our job as synthesis chemists, it is of paramount importance that the technologies that we develop transition elsewhere,” he said. “If we are not making compounds that transition, then we are not doing our job and frankly, we should not be in this business.”

The next step will be to convert the compounds characterized in their paper into new propellant and explosive energetic materials, he said.

“Provided that these new energetic compounds are thermally stable, have a reasonable sensitivity and are compatible with other ingredients, they will be scaled-up and transitioned for formulation efforts,” he said. “Explosives and propellant formulators stand to benefit from our work. In addition, the chemistry that we have developed may also benefit synthesis chemists within the pharmaceutical industry.”
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

CCDC Army Research Laboratory is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army’s corporate research laboratory, ARL discovers, innovates and transitions science and technology to ensure dominant strategic land power. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation’s wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.