Marquette researcher receives $1.5 million grant from U.S. Air Force

Studying prevention of accidental detonations


The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $1.5 million grant to Marquette University researcher Dr. John Borg to study the prevention of accidental detonations.

When hit by a blast or impact, explosives and propellants used in airbags, rockets, mining, munitions and other systems can accidentally detonate. Borg, Marquette professor and chair of mechanical engineering, will research the design and safety of material that may be susceptible to such accidental detonations. 

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Borg will use a surrogate system made of sugar and epoxy to imitate the substructure of energetic systems that could accidentally detonate.

“In the field, the current perspective is that energetic systems are composed of both hard and soft components, which creates a pinch that stresses the material,” Borg said. “By mimicking these hard and soft materials with sugar and epoxy, we can then run a series of tests to see how the system responds to differing stress loads.”

X-rays, light and electron microscopy will be used to image the sugar and epoxy substructure. Images will be imported as computer codes to simulate the dynamic response of the surrogate systems. The sugar and epoxy systems then will be subjected to shock and blast loads using a specialized gun designed to generate high velocities.

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Data will be used to determine how energetic materials can be modified to reduce accidental detonations.

“We are excited for Dr. Borg and his latest shock physics research,” said Dr. Kristina Ropella, Opus Dean of the Opus College of Engineering. “He continues to earn recognition as a leader in this field, and we are proud of the important work he is doing for our nation’s Air Force.”

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