By Tracy K. Robillard, AMCNovember 15, 2010
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- A safer, more stable explosive that was tested and qualified by engineers at Picatinny Arsenal as a replacement for TNT in Army projectiles was recently named by TIME Magazine as one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2010.
The new explosive, called IMX-101 (Insensitive Munitions Explosive 101), was one of five winners in TIME's "military" category of best inventions for the year.
TIME's annual Best Inventions list represents the biggest (and coolest) breakthroughs in science, technology and the arts, according to the magazine.
According to the report by TIME's Mark Thompson:
"Traditional TNT is relatively unstable and can detonate when dropped or when a vehicle carrying it is hit by an IED or a bullet. But the new IMX-101 explosive, while packing the same punch as TNT, is "more thermally stable," says Philip Samuels, a chemical engineer at Picatinny Arsenal's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC).
Researchers spent four years working on the material, which is scheduled for production next year. IMX-101 is more expensive than TNT, with an initial price of about $8 a pound, compared with $6 a pound for the usual stuff. But the Army is happy to pay the price, for Soldiers' safety, and because the less volatile explosives can be packed more tightly into storage areas, making them more accessible to Soldiers in the field."
Picatinny selected the IMX-101 formula, developed by BAE Systems, from a group of 23 different formulas submitted to the Army by various government, foreign and private competitors. Researchers at Picatinny found BAE's formula to be the most cost-effective option that exceeded all system tests, which were designed to represent real hazards and threats Soldiers face in combat.
The second place contender was a formula developed by ARDEC. While this explosive, named IMX-102, also exceeded all system tests, it costs more to produce than BAE's IMX-101. However, ARDEC's formula still holds value in other munitions applications, as Picatinny engineers continue to find new ways to incorporate this technology into other systems to ultimately save warfighter lives.
Because of Picatinny's efforts to test, qualify and apply the new explosive to existing Army and Marine field artillery projectiles, warfighters will see IMX-101 in 155mm M795 artillery projectiles next year. The new explosive is also being researched for use in other types of field artillery, another step forward for the Army as traditional TNT is gradually phased out of the Army's stockpile.
"If you were involved in an incident near a traditional TNT projectile hit with an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) or an improvised explosive device (IED), you wouldn't be standing here today to tell about it," said Charlie Patel, a program management engineer for Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems (PM-CAS) here. "But with IMX-101, all that would happen is the explosive would deflagrate (burn quickly), and the shell would break into a few pieces. You wouldn't have the big detonation that would wipe out the vehicle and driver or a whole storage area and crew."
"Because it's less sensitive, the Army can store more shells in a magazine, and store more in one building at a closer distance to the Soldiers," said Anthony Di Stasio, ARDEC project officer. "It significantly reduces the logistics burden both here in the U.S. and overseas."
About Us: Picatinny Arsenal is a Department of Defense center of excellence for the research, development, engineering and fielding of advanced armaments and weapon systems for all branches of the U.S. military. Known as the "Home of American Firepower," the New Jersey team of 5,000-strong provides a range of innovative technologies to support and protect today's warfighters. Learn more at www.pica.army.mil