Exploring the Synthesis and Characterization of Nanoenergetic Materials from Sol-Gel Chemistry

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Walker, Jeremy D.
Tannenbaum, Rina
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Nanoenergetic composite materials have been synthesized by a sol-gel chemical process where the addition of a weak base molecule induces the gelation of a hydrated metal salt solution. A proposed proton scavenging mechanism, where a weak base molecule extracts a proton from the coordination sphere of the hydrated iron (III) complex in the gelation process to form iron (III) oxide/hydroxide, FeIIIxOyHz, has been confirmed for the weak base propylene oxide (PO), a 1,2 epoxide, as well as for the weak bases tetrahydrofuran (THF), a 1,4 epoxide, and pyridine, a heterocyclic nitrogen-containing compound. THF follows a similar mechanism as PO; the epoxide extracts a proton from the coordination sphere of the hydrated iron complex forming a protonated epoxide which then undergoes irreversible ring-opening after reaction with a nucleophile in solution. Pyridine also extracts a proton from the hydrated metal complex, however, the stable six-membered molecule has low associated ring strain and does not endure ring-opening. Fe2O3/Al energetic systems were synthesized from the epoxides PO, trimethylene oxide (TMO) and 3,3 dimethyl oxetane (DMO). Surface area analysis of the synthesized matrices shows a direct correlation between the surface area of the iron (III) oxide matrix and the quantified exothermic heat of reaction of the nano-scaled aluminum-containing energetic material due to the magnitude of the interfacial surface area contact between the iron (III) oxide matrix and the aluminum particles. The Fe2O3(PO)/Al systems possess the highest heat of reaction values due to the oxide interfacial surface area available for contact with the aluminum particles. Also, reactions containing nano-scale aluminum react differently than those containing micron-scale aluminum. RuO2/Al energetic systems behave differently dependent on the atmosphere the sample is heated. Heating the RuO2/Al samples in an inert atmosphere results in the complete reduction of the ruthenium oxide matrix to Ru(0) before reaction with the aluminum particles, resulting in the exothermic formation of RuxAly intermetallics, with the stoichiometry dependent on the initial Ru:Al concentration. However, heating the samples in an oxygen-rich atmosphere results in an exothermic reaction between RuO2 and Al.
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