4D micro-scale, phase-contrast X-ray imaging and computed tomography of HMX-based polymer-bonded explosives during thermal runaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Gary Parker
  • Malte Storm
  • Kalpani Vitharana
  • Eric M. Heatwole
  • Ian Lopez-Pulliam
  • Robert M. Broilo
  • Peter M. Dickson
  • Anna Martinez
  • Christoph Rau


High-resolution synchrotron x-ray radiography with computed tomography is used to observe the evolution of porosity created by thermal exposure in two HMX-based polymer-bonded explosive compositions; LX-04 and BX-63. The measurements were made in situ, over an extended period of time, during which the samples were heated on a slow-rate thermal trajectory. The tests ended with thermal-runaway to ignition after which the samples were consumed by combustion. The primary means of damage appears to be from mechanical debonding of the HMX-binder interface with secondary contribution from chemical decomposition. Confinement and binder properties affect the amount of porosity and permeability that develops. Additionally, observations were made describing the emergence and structure of an internal ignition volume, the formation and transport of a pre-ignition melt layer, and how the early stages of combustion were affected by material morphology, mechanical confinement and melt. The contact angle between molten HMX and the fluoropolymer, Viton A, is also presented. For the first time we have time-resolved x-ray images of ignition in sufficient detail to verify the mechanism of cookoff in polymer-bonded explosive compositions.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-489
Number of pages12
JournalCombustion and Flame
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2021