Pop Mech: Explosive Metal

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When most bombs go off, they release a spray of deadly shards of steel. Now, imagine that those shards were themselves explosive, detonating in a massive chain reaction. It's for real: Defense contractors are harnessing the strange alchemy of reactive materials (RMs) in which two or more inert materials are mixed to create an explosion to develop smaller, more lethal warheads, as well as new ways to protect troops against mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades.

RMs generally consist of powdered metals, such as aluminum or titanium, combined with an oxidizing agent. Whether that agent is another powdered metal or a nonmetallic compound, such as Teflon, contact alone isn't enough to trigger an explosion. A powerful impact, however, will chemically mix the materials, igniting them and leading to a massive shock wave.

"A big challenge is making [RMs] strong enough to survive launch, but fragile enough to react on impact," says Judah Goldwasser, program manager at the Office of Naval Research, which is developing RMs for potential use in antimissile systems...

Click HERE to read the full article from Popular Mechanics now available on Military.com.

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