Explosive Goes Boom, Not Too Soon: Mixing with TNT Makes Powerful Substance Relatively Stable

Article excerpt

Look out, Road Runner: There's a new explosive for Wile E. Coyote's arsenal. By reining in a supersensitive explosive with good old-fashioned TNT, chemists have created a new compound that can be stored safely and then quickly converted to a superexplosive form.

The new "cocrystal" comprises a zigzagging chain of the explosive CL-20 and TNT that, after heating, reverts to a form of CL-20 that detonates more readily than either explosive alone, researchers report online August 25 in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

"You want an explosive to deliver a lot of destructive energy," says Thomas Klapotke of the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, an expert in energetic materials. And it should explode fairly easily. "But then it often becomes more dangerous to handle," Klapotke says.

Seeking a magical mix of stability and explosive power that would also provide a good bang for the buck, materials chemist Adam Matzger and his University of Michigan colleague Onas Bolton experimented with CL-20, a relatively new material developed by the U.S. Navy.

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"CL-20 has wonderful power, but it's a little sensitive--it tends to go off easily," says Matzger. …