Reactive materials are a class of advanced energetic materials currently being investigated as a means to increase the performance of warheads. Reactive materials are solids that stay inert but are capable of releasing large amount of energy very rapidly if subjected to a sufficiently strong impact, thermal, shock, or laser stimuli.

Energy generated by reactive materials can exceed those of traditional explosives, potentially offering enhanced performance without compromising on size or weight. These materials could be metal alloys, thermites, intermetallic compounds, metal-polymer composites, metastable intermolecular composites, etc.

Testing of reactive materials

One aspect of ATREC’s research efforts is to develop the next generation of reactive materials that are safer to handle and yet allow quick release of energy when required. Some of our novel reactive materials are designed and processed using sol-gel method, gas atomiser, and high energy miller.

Another R&D thrust is to develop new energetic materials with high performance and low sensitivity. Over the years, ATREC’s synthesis chemists have developed the capability to synthesise and scale up new energetic materials, from milligrams to kilograms, following stringent safety protocols. Characterisation instruments, such as the reaction calorimeter which measures the heat released or absorbed during a chemical reaction, are used to assess the safety of the synthesis process.

Scale up processing of energetic materials

Safer Explosives

An Insensitive Munition (IM) is one that will not react violently in an accident or by enemy action, which will subject it to unplanned stimuli, such as heat, shock, and fragment or bullet impact. The global development of IM was initiated after a series of catastrophes resulting from accidental detonation of energetics or munitions during operation and storage in the 1980s. All these inadvertent events led to loss of life, combat and defence capabilities; and took millions of dollars to rectify the extensive damages.

ATREC’s formulation chemists have developed a wide range of insensitive energetic formulations which offer the best compromise of high performance and low sensitivity. These adaptable and matured energetic solutions outperformed conventional explosives (e.g. TNT and Comp-B) in insensitivity and lethality.

ATREC’s insensitive explosive formulations have been substance qualified to STANAG 4170 and exhibit excellent mechanical properties, thermal stability, ageing properties, as well as reduced vulnerability to shock and thermal threats.

Processing of explosives using planetary mixer

New Energetic Processes

In recent years, we have started exploring ResonantAcoustic® Mixing (RAM) Technology as an alternative and improved processing method for energetic materials. RAM harnesses the resonance of the mechanical system to generate powerful acoustic energy for the effective and efficient mixing of ingredients. The non-contact RAM processing also offers enhanced safety benefits with regards to the mixing of energetic materials. Our developmental studies involve the processing of energetic materials using LabRAMII H from Resodyn Corporation. The results revealed that energetic formulations produced using RAM technology demonstrated equivalent, if not better, mix quality and performance than those processed using conventional methods. RAM technology excels in rapid development of new advanced energetics, and manufacturing of existing energetics with substantial reduction in mixing time and enhanced product reproducibility while reducing material waste.

Processing of energetic materials using RAM Technology

Since 911, the world has undergone a paradigm shift in the international threat scenario. Singapore has not been spared from the threat of terrorists who can carry out attacks using homemade explosives (HMEs) and improvised-explosive devices (IEDs).

Recognising a need to understand more about HMEs and IEDs, and with the strong support from the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), ATREC has developed unique capabilities to produce, characterise, and test HMEs and IEDs. The knowledge gained and database established from these studies are constantly promulgated to the relevant agencies to enhance the capabilities of the first responders in tackling these threats.

Since its inception, ATREC has been assessing the threats of HMEs by validating potential HME recipes using off-the-shelf materials and testing their potency. ATREC also facilitates and supports the Singapore Police Force in their annual Post-Blast investigation training which includes scenario planning, concocting HMEs, and conducting of explosives testing.

Today, ATREC is well-recognised by MINDEF and MHA as the center of excellence for studying and testing HMEs for the purpose of counterterrorism.

ATREC Pte Ltd.
ATREC Pte Ltd.

Preparation and mixing of homemade explosives

Characterisation of Homemade explosives

SPF’s Post-blast Investigation Exercise

One of the critical components for R&D of energetic materials is the ability to test new explosive materials quickly and safely. To support our R&D work, a test chamber capable of testing up to 5 kg TNT was built and commissioned in 2008. ATREC has also established high speed diagnostic capabilities for testing explosives, small munitions, and homemade explosives.

The diagnostic equipment include the Flash X-ray system for shaped charge and fragmentation studies. A high-speed video camera is used to capture detonation events as well as to study the terminal effects. Pressure transducers can be easily connected inside the chamber to measure blast effects.

ATREC Explosive Test Chamber (AETC) for maximum 5kg TNT equivalent

Flash X-ray equipment

Testing of energetic materials

Safety check for toxic gases after blast test