Thinking Tech

Breakthrough may lead to super-destructive missiles

Breakthrough may lead to super-destructive missiles

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Innovative High-Density Reactive Material can increase a standard weapon's explosive force by a factor of five.

If the military has it's way, missiles, grenades and other military weaponry may soon deliver an even more lethal blow.

That's because a new material dubbed High-Density Reactive Material, developed by the Office of Naval Research, can be combined with other explosive ingredients to increase a standard weapon's explosive force by a factor of five. The material, a mixture of several metals, is designed to replace conventional steel casings with little or no compromise in strength or stability.

Manufacturers typically used steel because it provided superior structural rigidity, holding an explosive together until the weapon reached the intended target -- though it did little else to improve the destructive effectiveness of the warhead. While that isn't necessarily a problem, the Navy's latest advancement represents an entirely novel approach in which the shell can also be detonated to release chemical energy after impact, an added function that increases the likelihood of a catastrophic kill.

Here's a brief explanation from io9 of how the new technology works:

Instead of solid steel, these new missiles will have shells made out of a combination of metals. Also mixed in is an oxidizing agent. Oxidizing agents help aid combustion, usually by giving oxygen over to the combusting material. When an ordinary missile hits the target, the energy in the steel shell doesn't go into the explosion. Instead, it's scattered as shrapnel around the area of the explosion. When this combination of oxidizers and metals hits a target, the materials are combined by the force of the explosion, and they explode themselves. This makes for a bigger localized explosion, but doesn't send pieces of steel flying over the area. The navy believes that this change will lead to a smaller amount of bystander deaths.

Naval researchers tested the material during a firing exercise at the Army's Blossom Point Field Test Facility in Maryland at the end of June and around mid-August. Next up is a large-scale demonstration against multiple stationary targets is tentatively planned for September.

(via io9)

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure