On-Command Pyrotechnic Light Emission Through Controlled Electromagnetic Irradiation

Dr. Eric Miklaszewski | Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division



Next generation of pyrotechnic emitters requires a paradigm shift away from the “emission control via formulation” use of such hazardous reactants toward development of universal formulations with on-command, battlefield-selectable emission characteristics. Traditional development of highbrilliance pyrotechnic emitters requires addition of toxicological and environmentally harmful additives. The objective of this project is to develop on-command microwave-selectable color and intensity emissions within a single pyrotechnic formulation by exploiting electromagnetic-flame interactions. The development of this technology will enable a tunable, multi-color, multi-purpose pyrotechnic, where environmental impact could be achieved via (1) reductions in size/weight of ordnance to produce desired photoemission impulse, (2) reduced military inventories due to multi-purpose use, and (3) the ability to produce spectral photoemission from environmentally friendly formulations that, without microwave irradiation, are incapable of satisfying photoemission color purity/intensity requirements.

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Technical Approach

It has been shown that one can readily deposit energy from high power microwaves directly to the flame of a pyrotechnic, resulting in new chemistry, enhanced flame temperature/structure, and generation of plasmas with unique spectral characteristics, enhanced burning rate, and sustainment of light emission after pyrotechnic extinguishment.1 By designing a pyrotechnic composition using multiple light emitting species (e.g. strontium, lithium, boron, sodium, potassium, copper, calcium), one would expect a low color-purity flame of little utility. The project will improve the understanding of microwave absorption to enable control of light output enhancement from selected chemistries, enabling on-command battlefield tuning of flame color and brightness. Research will focus on fundamental mechanisms of microwave coupling with simple, binary pyrotechnic systems investigated via combined experimental and computational investigations. Effects of microwave illumination of different emitters present in the plasma flame will be investigated with 0-D Monte Carlo simulations. These simulations will be validated against experiments varying the microwave field strength, frequency, and pulse parameters with the addition of new emitters (halides and group I/II metals).

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The development of this technology could deliver a tunable, multi-color, multi-purpose pyrotechnic, where environmental impact is achieved via reductions in size, weight, and numbers of military flare inventories. The use of microwave enhanced ordnance has the potential to unlock new electromagnetically enhanced potential from pyrotechnics. Furthermore, the performance of microwave-enhanced flares may require significantly less pyrotechnic material to produce a given signature. This technology will result in reductions in the size and weight of many flares which may enable an enhanced capability with a reduced number of assets, simplified logistical footprint, and minimized life-cycle costs.

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1 Barkley, S. J., Miklaszewski, E. J., Dilger, J., Michael, J. B., and Sippel, T. R., “Microwave Enhancement of Flare Combustion,” AIChE Annual Meeting, 2016, pp. 1–29.

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Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Dr. Eric Miklaszewski

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division

Phone: 812-854-5268

Fax: 812-854-4065