In yet another example of the serendipity of science, a University of Michigan research team applied “cocrystallization”—a process used in the pharmaceutical industry to alter the physical properties of drugs—to the production of high explosives, and discovered what may improve explosives technology in use for the last half century.
Mixing two mainstays, the volatile CL-20 and the popular HMX (two parts to one), chemist Adam J. Matzger and colleagues cooked up an explosive that travels about 1 percent faster than HMX alone, the military’s explosive of choice since the 1940s. Not a huge improvement, but when it comes to weapons, 225 miles per hour faster does have its appeal. The higher the explosive velocity, the further a projectile’s time and range for, say, blowing up a building.
Moreover, Matzger’s research showed the cocrystallization explosive to be stable, nontoxic, and shock-resistant—a find that holds promise for use in the production of plastic explosives and as a “safer,” more reliable trigger for nuclear bombs.