PLS partners with Weapons and Complex Integration (WCI) to work on energetic materials problems

LLNL conducts much of its explosives work at the High Explosives Applications Facility (HEAF). HEAF houses unique facilities for the synthesis, characterization, and testing of high explosives and other energetic materials. HEAF is also equipped with extensive, high-fidelity, high-speed diagnostic capabilities, including x-ray radiography, high-speed photography, laser velocimetry, and embedded particle velocity/pressure measurements.

photograph of HEAF HEAF is a 10,000 m2 facility completed in 1990 that includes 4000 m2 of laboratory space and 1200 m2 of office space. Major experimental facilities include a 10-kg, firing tank, two 1-kg firing tanks, and a 10-kg gun tank.

Solving Problems of National Importance

Sample preparation at HEAF
HEAF scientists setting up the HYDRA x-ray system used to take a sequence of high-resolution x-ray pictures of an explosively driven experiment in the 10-kg spherical tank shown in the background.

HEAF is a resource for research, development, and testing in support of stockpile stewardship, conventional defense, and other national needs. HEAF activities support the core stockpile stewardship campaign, the enhanced surveillance campaign, the reliable replacement warhead, the DOE-DoD Joint Munitions Program, and other defense-related projects. Facilities at HEAF include:

Sample preparation at HEAF
At HEAF, chemists, physicists, and engineers work side-by-side to synthesize and formulate new explosives with improved performance and safety characteristics.
Sample preparation at HEAF These explosive parts were fabricated to a high level of precision using HEAF's first-of-a-kind femtosecond laser facility.
Machined materials on a ruler

Contact: Jon Maienschein [bio], 925-423-1816,

The microdetonics laboratory is used to study the detonation of small-scale devices to develop a basic understanding of the functioning and aging of existing detonators and new detonator concepts.

New Frontiers

The combination of cutting-edge computational analysis and highly diagnosed experiments will provide advances in energetic materials research. We are focusing on four major categories: performance, safety, reliability/surveillance, and new materials. The new diagnostic tools we use to observe the propagation of a detonation wave will enable the development of improved tools to analyze the performance of existing and new materials. These tools will also help us to develop more effective applications of insensitive explosives in the stockpile and in conventional weapons. Similarly, this approach will lead to the ability to evaluate the response of energetic materials to a wide variety of stimuli, providing a scientific basis for resolving safety questions and improving designs with respect to safety.

We continue to focus on detailed understanding of the aging effects in energetic materials, with the goal of identifying potential age-related changes and extending the projected lifetime of energetic materials. Finally, we are developing novel energetic molecules, formulations, and nanoenergetics to support improved safety and performance in the nuclear weapons stockpile as well as the trend toward small, high-value weapon systems that require innovative materials.