Metrics for Explosivity, Inerting & Compatibility

Download Project Report (Phase 2, Year 7)

Project Description

The goal of Project R1-B1 is to narrow the range of potential explosives threats that concern the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Homeland Security Enterprise (HSE). For example, not every oxidizer/fuel (FOX) mixture is a potential explosive. This project is aimed at determining which are and assessing at what point threat mixtures have been successfully “inerted.” Because the number of potential threats is large and highly diverse, it is essential that a quick, safe method of determining detonability be established—a method not requiring the formulation of large amounts of material to determine if it is an explosive hazard. We have taken multiple approaches to this problem, including:

  • Using homemade explosives (HMEs) that are FOX mixtures. We have characterized their responses to small-scale tests and are in the process of seeking a correlation to modest-scale detonation testing;
  • Applying fundamental tandem mass spectrometric (MS) techniques to discover possible relationships between collision-induced fragmentation energies and specific properties of explosives;
  • Developing a new way to characterize the shock/detonation front using unique probes to aid in the examination of the growth to detonation vs. shock attenuation at small-scale; and
  • Soliciting other groups to join the effort due to the difficulty of the task (see projects R1-A2R1-B2, and a funded project with LANL).

There are potentially hundreds of explosive threat materials. Distinguishing between actual threats and benign chemicals is of high interest to the HSE. This effort also extends to the question of concentration (e.g. absolute safe concentrations of hydrogen peroxide). These are the types of questions coming from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and explosive trace detection (ETD) vendors. When the proposed tests are developed and executed, they will be available as screening tools for producing the answers to these problems.


This program is much needed to help agencies like the FBI decide what formulations make sense and what don’t in the area of bomb making.
Biannual Review, December 2015
Project Leader
  • Jimmie Oxley
    University of Rhode Island

Students Currently Involved in Project
  • Taylor Busby
    University of Rhode Island