Microscopical Examination of Plastic-Bonded Explosives

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Polarized Light Microscopy is a powerful technique for the identification of powdered explosives. The authors apply the technique here to the characterization in bulk of composite, plastic-bonded explosives, typically consisting of 95 w/o explosive particulate and 5 w/o polymeric binder. Mounting and polishing techniques are described, along with attendant issues of mount dyeing and some complications of cleaning very soft samples. The microstructures of PBX 9501 (based on cyclotetramethylene tetranitramine, or HMX), PBX 9502 (based on triaminotrinitrobenzene or TATB), and X-0535 (based on diaminotetrazine dioxide, or TZX) are compared and contrasted. Selected case studies are presented in which development of prominent structural characteristics, such as particle size and crack density, are tracked from the starting powders through formulation and pressing to serviceable, formed articles.

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The Microscope Journal, v. 45, issue 4, p. 127-136

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