DoD/DOE Clean Agile Manufacturing of Energetics

Dr. Jim Short | Office of Naval Research



There is a need to develop new energetic materials by environmentally clean processes that will meet the needs of the Department of Defense (DoD) in the future.

The objective of this program was to develop energetic materials and processing technologies to provide concepts for reconfiguring existing propellant, explosive, and pyrotechnic (PEP) lifecycle facilities into clean, agile operations that will function economically with total lifecycle wastes reduced by up to 90 percent from a 1992 baseline. This project developed new chemicals and processes to ensure pollution prevention while simultaneously providing increased PEP energy and lower production costs.

Back to Top

Technical Approach

The technical approach for this project was to simulate government and industry PEP production facilities to predict lifecycle pollution. Pollution prevention technologies were tested experimentally in existing facilities. Facility design concepts were developed and included the following: descriptions of products, chemical engineering unit operations and utility requirements, regulatory and qualification approaches, and operation safety constraints.

The risk is that PEP safety issues and policies might prohibit the adoption of the pollution prevention methods for manufacturing military PEP. The risk is mitigated through experimental studies that were conducted to demonstrate a range of products and processes that are operationally safe in an explosive manufacturing operation. The experiments conducted demonstrated new PEP materials and processes that are practical for safe, cost-effective, environmentally clean insertion into the PEP life-cycle and satisfy ordnance performance requirements.

Back to Top


An export license was granted to Thiokol by the Office of Defense Trade Controls of the Department of State on July 29, 1998. This license enabled Thiokol to assign a principal investigator who is an expert in the area of Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE). A pilot plant for manufacturing thermoplastic elastomers using supercritical (or liquid) carbon dioxide as the solvent was assembled at the Aerojet Corporation in Sacramento, CA. The Institute of Technology completed its SERDP-sponsored work adapting the chemical batch process simulator known as Batch Design Kit to batch processes used in the manufacture of propellants and explosives. The TPE manufactured by Thiokol in Utah was used by the Naval Surface Warfare Center - Indian Head Division, Indian Head, MD, to demonstrate loading of TPEbased propellant or explosive into a warhead or sub-scale rocket motor. The clean burning 4th generation energetic ingredient ammonimum dinitramide was thermally characterized and its shock sensitivity and detonation properties determined so that it might be more practical for use in propellants and explosives. A gun propellant was formulated and tested which takes into consideration the environmental impact and life-cycle cost as well as thermodynamic properties, interior ballistics, and flash and blast characteristics during formulation trade-off studies. This project was completed in FY 1998.

Back to Top


This project has provided automated tools for PEP life-cycle analysis and a conceptual approach, based on these tools, for reconfiguring existing PEP factories to reduce hazardous wastes by a factor of ten, which is almost twice the 1999 national goal for pollution prevention. This will mitigate price increases of future PEP products resulting from the cost of complying with more stringent future environmental regulations. Satisfying regulations will help curtail factory shutdowns and unscheduled retirement of ordnance systems.

Back to Top

Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Dr. Jim Short

Office of Naval Research (Code 333)

Phone: 703-696-0690

Fax: 703-696-2558