Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Water acts as catalyst in explosives

24.03.2009
The most abundant material on Earth exhibits some unusual chemical properties when placed under extreme conditions.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have shown that water, in hot dense environments, plays an unexpected role in catalyzing complex explosive reactions. A catalyst is a compound that speeds chemical reactions without being consumed. Platinum and enzymes are common catalysts. But water rarely, if ever, acts as a catalyst under ordinary conditions.

Detonations of high explosives made up of oxygen and hydrogen produce water at thousands of degrees Kelvin and up to 100,000 atmospheres of pressure, similar to conditions in the interiors of giant planets.

While the properties of pure water at high pressures and temperatures have been studied for years, this extreme water in a reactive environment has never been studied. Until now.

Using first-principle atomistic simulations of the detonation of the high explosive PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate), the team discovered that in water, when one hydrogen atom serves as a reducer and the hydroxide (OH) serves as an oxidizer, the atoms act as a dynamic team that transports oxygen between reaction centers.

"This was news to us," said lead researcher Christine Wu. "This suggests that water also may catalyze reactions in other explosives and in planetary interiors."

This finding is contrary to the current view that water is simply a stable detonation product.

"Under extreme conditions, water is chemically peculiar because of its frequent dissociations," Wu said. "As you compress it to the conditions you'd find in the interior of a planet, the hydrogen of a water molecule starts to move around very fast."

In the molecular dynamic simulations using the Lab's BlueGene L supercomputer, Wu and colleagues Larry Fried, Lin Yang, Nir Goldman and Sorin Bastea found that the hydrogen (H) and hydroxide (OH) atoms in water transport oxygen from nitrogen storage to carbon fuel under PETN detonation conditions (temperatures between 3,000 Kelvin and 4,200 Kelvin). Under both temperature conditions, this "extreme water" served both as an end product and as a key chemical catalyst.

For a molecular high explosive that is made up of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen, such as PETN, the three major gaseous products are water, carbon dioxide and molecular nitrogen.

But to date, the chemical processes leading to these stable compounds are not well understood.

The team found that nitrogen loses its oxygen mostly to hydrogen, not to carbon, even after the concentration of water reaches equilibrium. They also found that carbon atoms capture oxygen mostly from hydroxide, rather than directly from nitrogen monoxide (NO) or nitrogen dioxide (NO_). Meanwhile water disassociated and recombines with hydrogen and hydroxide frequently.

"The water that comes out is part of the energy release mechanism," Wu said. "This catalytic mechanism is completely different from previously proposed decomposition mechanisms for PETN or similar explosives, in which water is just an end product. This new discovery could have implications for scientists studying the interiors of Uranus and Neptune where water is in an extreme form."

The research appears in the premier issue (April 2009) of the new journal Nature Chemistry.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Anne Stark | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.llnl.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Closing in on advanced prostate cancer
13.12.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

nachricht Visualizing single molecules in whole cells with a new spin
13.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>