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Posted by John Keller

U.S. military experts are looking into a new way of manufacturing small, reliable, and inexpensive detonators for weapons such as missiles, torpedoes, and smart artillery shells.

The next generation of detonators may rely on nanometer- and micron-size copper structures manufactured on integrated circuit (IC) lines, and then chemically converted into tiny explosives, according to a story online at entitled Unique Porous Copper Structure Enables New Generation Of Military Micro-Detonators.

Research into these new detonators is happening at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) in Atlanta and the Indian Head Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Md.

The Indian Head Division, among other things, is responsible for Navy research into propulsion systems, explosives, pyrotechnics, warheads, and simulators.

Because they can be integrated into standard microelectronics fabrication processes, the copper materials will enable micro-electromechanical (MEMS) fuzes for military munitions to be mass-produced like computer chips, according to in the story that appears today.

These new fuzes will measure about one square centimeter that could be manufactured on a large scale on IC fabrication lines. quotes Michael Beggans, a scientist in the Energetics Technology Department at Indian Head on the benefits of extremely small detonators:

"Today, everything is becoming smaller, consuming less power and offering more functionality," Beggans added. "When you hear that a weapon is 'smart,' it's really all about the fuze. The fuze is 'smart' in that it knows the exact environment that the weapon needs to be in, and detonates it at the right time. The MEMS fuze would provide 'smart' functionality in medium-caliber and sub-munitions, improving results and reducing collateral damage."

Detonators have always been problematic for weapons designers, and the U.S. Navy historically has had difficult times with detonators on munitions like torpedoes. In the opening months of World War II in the Pacific, Navy submarine commanders experienced many failures on the Mark XIV torpedo. Navy experts to this day are particularly sensitive to detonator issues because of this.

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Welcome to the lighter side of Military & Aerospace Electronics. This is where our staff recount tales of the strange, the weird, and the otherwise offbeat. We could put news here, but we have the rest of our Website for that. Enjoy our scribblings, and feel free to add your own opinions. You might also get to know us in the process. Proceed at your own risk.

John Keller for MAE
John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Courtney Howard for MAE Courtney E. Howard is senior editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine. She is responsible for writing news stories and feature articles for the print publication, as well as composing daily news for the magazine's Website and assembling the weekly electronic newsletter. Her features have appeared in such high-tech trade publications as Military & Aerospace Electronics, Computer Graphics World, Electronic Publishing, Small Times, and The Audio Amateur.

John McHale for MAE John McHale is executive editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, where he has been covering the defense Industry for more than dozen years. During that time he also led PennWell's launches of magazines and shows on homeland security and a defense publication and website in Europe. Mr. McHale has served as chairman of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum and its Advisory Council since 2004. He lives in Boston with his golf clubs.