PLS partners with Weapons and Complex Integration (WCI) to work on
energetic materials problems
LLNL conducts much of its explosives work at the High Explosives Applications
Facility (HEAF). HEAF houses
unique facilities for the synthesis, characterization, and testing of high
explosives and other energetic materials. HEAF is also equipped
with extensive, high-fidelity, high-speed diagnostic capabilities, including
x-ray radiography, high-speed photography, laser velocimetry, and embedded
particle velocity/pressure measurements.
HEAF is a 10,000 m2 facility completed in 1990 that includes
4000 m2 of laboratory space and 1200 m2 of office
space. Major experimental facilities include a 10-kg, firing tank, two
1-kg firing tanks, and a 10-kg gun tank.
Solving Problems of National Importance
HEAF is a resource for research, development, and testing in
support of stockpile stewardship, conventional defense, and other
national needs. HEAF activities support the core stockpile stewardship
campaign, the enhanced surveillance campaign, the reliable replacement warhead,
the DOE-DoD Joint Munitions Program, and other defense-related projects. Facilities
at HEAF include:
- Firing tanks—One 10-kg and two 1-kg firing tanks
are used to characterize the detonation and thermal ignition of explosives
assemblies in support of DOE and DoD programs. These tanks provide a way
to conduct explosive experiments indoors under well-controlled conditions
with complete dynamic diagnostics. Many types of tests are executed in these
tanks, including cylinder test for detonation performance, blast tests for
enhanced blast explosives, and the scaled thermal explosion (STEX) test to
characterize the violence of thermal explosions.
- Gun tank—A 100-mm-diam propellant-driven gun fires
projectiles at 300 m/s to 2.5 km/s into a tank capable of holding 3-5 kg
of explosive. The explosive targets typically have embedded pressure gages to study the one-dimensional
- Microdetonics laboratory—These facilities include
100-gram, 2-gram, and 3-gram firing tanks and are used to study the detonation
of small-scale devices to develop a basic understanding of the functioning
and aging of existing detonators and new detonator concepts.
- Femtosecond Machining Center—This first-of-a-kind
facility is used to cut high-explosive pieces and assemblies using short
laser pulses that vaporize the explosive without thermally heating or damaging
the material left behind. This enables us to examine cut-back,
partial assemblies that are representative of the full devices and fabrication
of very small sticks of high explosive for characterizing detonation behavior.
- Stockpile Detonator Surveillance Facility—A 150-gram firing tank
and an inspection laboratory is used to monitor the performance of stockpile-return
- Synthesis and formulation laboratories—New energetic
compounds for DOE and DOD weapon applications are synthesized from the milligram
to multikilogram scale in HEAF and at the Site 300 scale-up facility. Our
efforts in the past years concentrated on the synthesis of new insensitive
energetic compounds such as LLM-105 and the development of a new method for
the synthesis of TATB.
- Pressing laboratories—A pressing laboratory in HEAF provides small-scale
explosive samples for testing, while samples that are larger or that require
machining are provided by the PLS Site 300 Facility.
- Material characterization laboratories—A variety
of thermal analysis and small-scale safety tests characterize energetic materials
for handling safety, thermal stability, compatibility, and lifetime characteristics.
Equipment includes differential scanning calorimetry, thermal expansion,
thermal conductivity, porosity, permeability, high-pressure strand burner,
one-dimensional time to explosion (ODTX) apparatus, SEM, particle size measurement,
and spark, friction, and drop-hammer tests.
HEAF scientists setting up the HYDRA x-ray system
used to take a sequence of high-resolution x-ray pictures of an explosively
driven experiment in the 10-kg spherical tank shown in the background.
At HEAF, chemists, physicists, and engineers work side-by-side to synthesize and formulate new explosives with improved performance and
These explosive parts
were fabricated to a high level of precision using HEAF's first-of-a-kind
femtosecond laser facility.