The need for smaller and less expensive MIL-STD 1901A compliant safe and arm-fire (S&A/A-F) devices to safely initiate rocket motors requires a better understanding of energetic initiation and firing train functionality. Applications broadly include NLOS artillery rocket-assist motors, high Isp miniature thrusters for UAVs, composite molded thrusters for hypersonic flow temperatures, and smart munitions. Every energetic system needs an initiation mechanism. For the past decade, many groups have worked on reducing the footprint of these systems through batch processing and miniaturization. However, the typical miniaturization and semiconductor-style benefits such as "faster, smaller, cheaper" are only now being investigated for micro-energetics. Advancement of this field requires key breakthroughs in the following areas: 1) a SAFE and batch micro-energetics deposition and patterning step, 2) The compatibility of subsequent (post or pre) MEMS processing steps, 3) better understanding of the micro-initiation energetic train, and 4) special environmental standards for the manufacturer and specialized product qualification/testing.
This body of work spotlights 'low-cost' MEMS-based initiators, typical chemical compounds used today in the industry and the associated sensitivities and dangers to be encountered. The micro-scale firing trains required for smart munitions, including warhead and propellant applications, can be made multifunctional for use with legacy and IM-compliant energetics. Methods of focusing industry on reliability and the importance of characterizing formulation, composition, and performance will also be discussed. Most importantly, however, is the need to focus industry on implementing a low-cost micro initiator methodology.
Microthrusters are critical for the development of terrestrial micromissiles and nano air vehicles for reconnaissance, surveillance, and sensor emplacement. With the maturation of MEMS manufacturing technology, the physical components of the thrusters can be readily fabricated. The thruster type that is the most straightforward is chemical combustion of a propellant that is ignited by a heating element giving a single shot thrust. Arrays of MEMS manufactured thrusters can be ganged to give multiple firings. The basic model for such a system is a solid rocket motor. The desired elements for the propellant of a chemical thruster are high specific impulse (Isp), high temperature and pressure, and low molecular weight combustion gases. Since the combustion chamber of a microthruster is extremely small, the propellant material must be able to ignite, sustain and complete its burn inside the chamber. The propellant can be either a solid or a liquid. There are a large number of energetic materials available as candidates for a propellant for microthrusters. There has been no systematic evaluation of the available energetic materials as propellant candidates for microthrusters. This report summarizes computations done on a series of energetic materials to address their suitabilities as microthruster propellants.