Thrust 1
Characterization & Elimination of Illicit Explosives

Thrust Leader: Jimmie Oxley, University of Rhode Island

Detection of explosives requires knowledge of the signature characteristics of various threat materials and seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What makes a chemical capable of being an explosive or of detonating?
  • Can we prevent terrorist acquisition and/or use of precursor chemicals to make explosives?
  • Are there characteristics of terrorist-used explosives that exhibit observable signatures by current or envisioned sensor systems?
  • Can we concentrate sample collection to enhance our ability to detect these signatures?
  • What properties of terrorist-used explosives pertain to safe handling and creation of realistic simulants?

Activities of this research thrust include

  1. Characterization of signatures and properties of a variety of potential threat materials;
  2. Design of protocols for safe handling and disposal of these threats, including ways to prevent common chemicals from being used to make illicit explosives while still allowing their intended uses;
  3. Determination of surface-explosive particle interaction in order to best locate and collect explosive residue.

Project Leaders

  • Joel Greenberg
    Associate Research Professor
    Duke University

Faculty and Staff

  • Gerald Kagan
    University of Rhode Island


  • Taylor Busby
    University of Rhode Island
  • The Role of Thermal Analysis in Screening and Analyzing Cocrystallization of Energetic Materials Swanson, D. North American Thermal Analysis Society International Conference 2016.
  • Noncontact Electrostatic Swabbing of Energetic Materials Swanson, D. Trace Explosives Detection Workshop 2016.
  • Peroxides and Other HME Oxley, J. HME Working Group 2015.
  • Issues in Explosive Detection: Sampling Oxley, J. SciX - The Great Scientific Exchange 2015.
  • Ion Supression by Solvent in LC-MS Oxley, J. New Trends in Research Energetic Materials 2016.
  • Hexamethylene Triperoxide Diamine (HTMD) Oxley, J Trace Explosive Detection Workshop 2016.
  • Raman for Tracking Thermal Effects in Energetic Materials McLennan, L. North American Thermal Analysis Society International Conference 2016.
  • Creation of Pyrotechnic Foams Levine, R. North American Thermal Analysis Society International Conference 2016.
  • Sol-Gel Synthesis of a Series of First Row d-Block Ferrites via the Epoxide Addition Method UaCearnaigh, D.C., Baghi, R., & Hope-Weeks, L.J. RSC Advances, 6(53), pp. 48212-48221 2016. DOI: 10.1039/prep.201500161.
  • Synthesis and Degradation of Hexamethylene Triperoxide Diamine (HTMD) Oxley, J.C., Smith, J.L., Porter, M., McLennan, L. Colizza, K., Zeiri, Y., Kosloff, R., & Dubnikova Propellants, Explosives, Pyrotechnics, 41(2), pp. 334-350 2016. DOI: 10.1002/prep.201500151.
  • Energetic Material/Polymer Interaction Studied by Atomic Force Microscopy Oxley, J.C., Smith, J.L., Kagan, G.L., Zhang, G., & Swanson, D.S. Propellants, Explosives, Pyrotechnics 2016. DOI: 10.1002/prep.201500161.
  • Mechanism of Intact Adsorbed Molecules Ejection using High Intensity Laser Pulses Furman, D. Kosloff, R. & Zeiri, Y. Journal of Physical Chemistry C 2016. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.6b03711.
  • Reactive Force Field for Liquid Hydrazoic Acid with Applications to Detonation Chemistry Furman, D., Dubnikova, F., van Duin, A., Zeiri, Y., & Kosloff, R. Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 120(9), pp. 4744-4752. 2016. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.5b10812.
  • Phase Diagram of Ammonium Perchlorate: Raman Spectroscopic Constrains at High Pressures and Temperatures Dunuwille, M. & Yoo, C. S. J. Chem. Phys., 144 2016. DOI: 10.1063/1.1943909.
  • A Pre-Concentrator for Explosive Vapor Detection Caron, Z., Mallin, D., Champlin, M., & Gregory, O. 227th Electrochemical Society Meeting, Chicago, IL, May 2015. 2015.
  • Improved Thermal Stability and Reduced Sublimation Rate of Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate Through Doping Graphene Oxide Zhang, X., & Weeks, B.L. North American Thermal Analysis Annual Meeting, Santa Fe, NM, 14-17 September 2014. 2014.
  • Modeling Small Scale Detonation Experiments with Pressed TATB Kittell, D.E., Renslow, P.J., Groven, L.J., & Son, S.F. 15th International Detonation Symposium, 13-18 July 2014. 2014.
  • A Comparison of Wavelet, Quadrature, and Peak-to-Peak Methods for Determining Shock Velocity from Microwave Interferometer Data Kittell, D.E., Mares J.O., & Son, S.F. 15th International Detonation Symposium, 13-18 July 2014. 2014.
  • Large-Area Preparation of High-Quality and Uniform Three-Dimensional Graphene Networks Through Thermal Degradation of Graphene Oxide-Nitrocellulose Composites Zhang, X., Zeimer, K.S., Zhang, K., Ramirez, D., Li, L., Wang, S.R., Hope-Weeks L.J., & Weeks, B.L. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 7(2), 21 January 2015, pp. 1057-1064. DOI: 2015.
  • Insensitive TATP Training Aid by Microencapsulation Oxley, J.C., Smith, J.L., & Canino, J.N. Journal of Energetic Materials, 33(3), 25 March 2015, pp. 215-228. DOI: 10.1080/07370652.2014.985857 2014.
  • Explosive Detection: How We Got Here and Where Are We Going? Oxley, J. International Journal of Energetic Materials and Chemical Propulsion, 13(4), 2014, pp. 373-381. DOI: 10.1615/IntJEnergeticMaterialsChemProp.2014011493 2014.
  • Using Time-Frequency Analysis to Determine Time-Resolved Detonation Velocity with Microwave Interferometry Kittell, D.E., Mares, J.O., & Son, S.F Review of Scientifi c Instruments, 2015, 86(4): 044705. 2015.
  • Detonation Failure Characterization of Homemade Explosives Janesheski, R.S., Groven, L.J., & Son, S.F. Propellants, Explosives, and Pyrotechnics, 39(4), August 2014, pp. 609-616. 2014.
  • Gas Phase Reactions of Alcohols with Hexamethylene Triperoxide Diamine (HMTD) Under Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization Conditions Colliza, K., Porter, M., Smith, J., & Oxley, J. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 29(1), 15 January 2015, pp. 74-80. DOI: 10.1002/rcm.7084 2015.
  • Direct laser initiation and improved thermal stability of nitrocellulose/graphene oxide nanocomposites X. Zhang, W.M. Hikal, S.K. Bhattacharia, L. Li, S. Panditrao, S. Wang and B.L. Weeks Applied Physics Letters, 102, 141905 2013.
  • Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) as Safer, Structurally Reinforced Energetics OS. Bushuyev, P. Brown, A. Maiti, RH. Gee, GR. Peterson, BL. Weeks, and LJ. Hope-Weeks Chemistry-A European Journal, 19(5), 1706-1711 2013.
  • Phase Pure Triacetone Triperoxide: The Influence of Ionic Strength, Oxidant Source, and Acid Catalyst G.R. Peterson, W.P. Bassett, B.L. Weeks and L.J. Hope-Weeks Crystal Growth and Design, 13, 2307-2311 2013.
  • Solvent-tuned Hierarchically Porosity in Nitrocellulose Aerogels G R. Peterson, K A. Cychosz, M. Thommes, and LJ. Hope-Weeks Chemical Communications, 48(96), 11754-11756 2012.
  • Controlling the morphology of a zinc ferrite-based aerogel by choice of solvent P. Brown, D. Uancearnaigh, and LJ. Hope-Weeks Journal of Sol-gel Science and Technology, 61 (1), 104-111 2012.
  • Ionic Polymers as a New Structural Motif for High Energy-Density Materials OS. Bushuyev, P. Brown, A. Maiti, RH. Gee, GR. Peterson, BL. Weeks, and LJ. Hope-Weeks Journal of the American Chemical Society, 134 (3), 1422–1425 2012.
  • Oxygen-Diffusion Limited Metal Combustions in Zr, Fe and Ti Foils: Time-Resolved X-ray Diffraction Studies Haoyan Wei, Jing-Yin Chen and Choong-Shik Yoo J. App. Phys. 111, 063528 2012.
  • Kinetics of Small Single Particle Combustion of Zirconium Alloy Haoyan Wei and Choong-Shik Yoo J. App. Phys. 111, 023506 2012.
  • Evaluation of the GPU Architecture for the Implementation of Target Detection Algorithms for Hyperspectral Imagery. Velez-Reyes, Miguel 2011 SPIE Defense, Vol 8048 2011.
  • TNT removal by wild plants growing in the Caribbean. Hernandez, Samuel Chemosphere 2011.
  • Time- and Angleresolved X-ray Diffraction to Probe Structural and Chemical Evolution during Al-Ni Intermetallic Reactions Choong-Shik Yoo, Haoyan Wei, Jing-Yin Chen, Guoyin Shen, Paul Chow, and Yuming Xiao Rev. Sci. Instrum. 82, 113901 2011.
  • Pressure Induced Isostructural Metastable Phase Transition of Ammonium Nitrate Alistair J. Davidson, Raja S. Chellappa, Dana M. Dattelbaum, and Choong-Shik Yoo J. Phys. Chem. A 115, 11889 2011.
  • ’Stubborn’ Triaminotrinitrobenzene (TATB): Unusually high chemical stability of a molecular solid to 150 GPa. Alistair J. Davidson, Ranga Dias, Dana Dattelbaum, and Choong-Shik Yoo J. Chem. Phys. 135, 174507 2011.
  • Engineering the microstructure of organic energetic materials. G. Zhang, H. Sun, J. Abbott and B.L. Weeks. ACS Applied Surfaces and Interfaces, Vol. 1, pp 1086-1089, 2009.