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60 Years of Fraunhofer ICT: 60 Years of Applied Research and Development in Energetic Materials and Systems

: Elsner, Peter; Eckl, Wilhelm; Löbbecke, Stefan


Propellants, explosives, pyrotechnics 44 (2019), Nr.6, S.667
ISSN: 0340-7462
ISSN: 0721-3115
ISSN: 1521-4087
Fraunhofer ICT ()
energetic materials

While the Fraunhofer‐Gesellschaft is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, Fraunhofer ICT proudly looks back on its 60 years of research in the field of propellants, explosives and pyrotechnics. Founded in 1959, Fraunhofer ICT started out with 20 employees, who carried out research projects on rocket propellants. Soon the scope of research was widened to include explosives and gun propellants. Today, Fraunhofer ICT with its 500 employees is the only German research institution working on the entire development chain, ranging from raw energetic material synthesis through to the development and evaluation of energetic prototype systems. The research is focused on the synthesis, development, characterization, simulation, modeling, formulation and manufacturing of rocket propellants, gun propellants, explosives, gas generators and pyrotechnics. Fraunhofer ICT thus helps to ensure the strong analysis and decision‐making capabilities of the German Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg), and supports industrial R&D activities. The key to successful research and the development of improved energetic materials and systems is the long‐standing competence of the institute's employees. Today, Fraunhofer ICT carries out R&D on the performance, insensitivity, functionality, safety and environmental compatibility of new, tailor‐made propellant and explosive systems. Current research topics include environmentally‐friendly, low‐signature, high‐performance rocket propellants for military and civil applications, foamed propellant structures, insensitive high‐performance explosives as well as gel and liquid propellants for rockets enabling controllable thrust phases. To this end, various new energetic components are synthesized and modified in Fraunhofer ICT's laboratories, and appropriate process technologies like continuous and microreactor‐based processes are being developed to allow safe processing and scale‐up of syntheses in the institute‘s pilot plants. Particle technology plays a key role in the further refinement of solid energetic materials synthesized at Fraunhofer ICT to adjust the shape, size, morphology and functionality of energetic materials prior to the final processing of prototype formulations. Concerning interior ballistics and detonics, all prototype formulations are characterized either in laboratories, detonation chambers or at open‐air testing ranges up to the kilogram scale to gather all relevant data on their reaction behavior, sensitivity and performance. Moreover, the same data are simulated by employing computer codes developed in‐house, which enable the evaluation and prediction of energetic systems. Finally, investigations into the compatibility and stability of energetic substances and formulations as well as the prediction of their aging behavior form an integral part of the extensive characterization work carried out at Fraunhofer ICT. What's next? With our fascination for research, we are continually discovering the R&D requirements and challenges of tomorrow. Looking to the future, digitalization will soon become one of the key drivers in almost all areas of science and technology, thus also in the world of energetic materials and systems. Intelligent algorithms and significantly enhanced computational power will allow more and more digital processing of chemical syntheses, materials processing and prototype formulations. Detailed modeling will provide access to highly precise predictions of performance, system designs and material properties. The quantum mechanical design of energetic molecules and an in‐depth understanding of material interactions are expected to pave the way toward new findings and developments in the field of propellants, explosives and pyrotechnics.