DBX-1 as Replacement for Lead Azide and Lead Styphnate in M6 and M7 Blasting Caps

Mr. Daniel Perciballi | U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center



The current inventory of Army detonators (Modernized Demolition Initiators (MDI) nonelectric initiators, M6 electric initiators, and M7 nonelectric initiators) uses components and materials that contain lead. MDI, M6, and M7 blasting caps are used to detonate all standard military explosives (C-4, TNT, etc.), and personnel (Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Combat Engineers, and Special Forces) using these items are exposed to the lead-based compounds. The usage rate is roughly 100,000 caps per year (M6 - 40 thousand and M7 - 60 thousand). According to OSHA Standard Number 1910.1025 App A, when absorbed into the body in certain doses, lead is a toxic substance. Lead is both an occupational and an environmental issue, and elimination of lead is of significant importance to the Department of Defense (DoD).

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Technology Description

DBX-1, copper (I) 5-nitrotetrazolate, is a lead-free primary explosive developed to replace toxic/ hazardous lead and mercury based compounds (lead azide, lead styphnate, DXN-1) and was first synthesized by contractor Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Co. (PSEMC) for the Navy (NSWC-IH) in 2005. DBX-1 has been successful as a drop-in replacement for lead azide and lead azide/lead styphnate mixtures in multiple detonators and has also shown preliminary success as lead styphnate replacement in primers, blasting caps, initiators, and detonators. This project will demonstrate the capabilities of M6/M7 blasting caps using non-lead based explosives. Success will be defined by testing the improved blasting caps loaded with DBX-1 in place of lead-based explosives and meeting current requirements (M6 - MILPRF-32293 and M7 - MIL-PRF-32294).

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Lead azide and lead styphnate are lead-based compounds that incur extensive shipping and disposal requirements, thus driving lifecycle costs. Lead-based materials are well established to cause environmental and health related problems. Manufacturing of these lead-based primary explosives results in the production of significant quantities of highly toxic hazardous waste. Lead azide also has sustainment issues. The current stockpile of lead azide is deteriorating, as there are only three current sources of military-qualified lead azide. Lead styphnate has a poor explosive initiating efficiency. It is only adequate for initiating other primary explosives and PETN. It is almost always employed in mixtures with other ingredients.

The immediate Department of Defense benefit in terms of environmental impact is the removal of lead-based components in the M6 and M7 detonators. This energetic or some form of this energetic could replace the M6 ignition mix (which is not Government-owned) and replace MDI lead-based components in the future based on successful implementation of DBX-1 in the M6 and M7 variants. Additionally, this effort leverages previously completed and ongoing work to characterize and qualify DBX-1 itself and validate bulk explosive production techniques. (Anticipated Project Completion - 2018)

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Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Dr. Daniel Perciballi


Phone: 973-724-1660