We study energetic materials, i.e. those that release heat upon decomposition. Our focus is usually a practice problem: making a material safer; understanding its formation or decomposition; improving its performance. With that wide an area of study we require lots of instruments to address the various questions. If you refer to the EQUIPMENT page, you will find calorimeters; mass spectrometers; and various spectrophotometers. Depending on the question, some or all of these instruments will be employed.
We often take a problem clear to practical application. We supply one small company with the chemicals for colorimetric explosive detection kits; we supply another with safe-scent canine training aids for bomb-sniffing dogs. Such practical applications usually involve working with polymer and other materials; therefore, you will also find under the EQUIPMENT page a particle size analyzer; a rheometer; a surface area and porosimeter (BET), a hot-stage microscope, and an atomic force microscope; and under INDUSTRY PARTNERS a large number of companies.
As part of our work with the Department of Homeland Security we are involved in explosive detection. You will find we have a rather thorough TSA lab with X-ray, CT, IMS, and handheld Raman instrumentation.
One class of energetic materials is explosives. Working with explosives often requires that we attempt to detonate them. For that purpose we have a firing-range about 30 minutes northwest of the main URI campus (ALTON-JONES). The instrumentation required there is very different from that used in laboratory analysis. Here we use pressure transducers to measure blast, high-speed cameras to observe explosions, and PDV to measure detonation or burn velocity.
Because we work on diverse projects we often must build our own devices or holders or other widgets. To that end in the main lab are several 3-D plastic and one metal printer. Both the main lab and the firing site have lathes, cutters and other machining tools.
Overwhelming. Yes. But no one does it all. Each person finds his/her niche and area of interest.