Washington, August 29 : Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, including an Indian-origin researcher, have achieved some success in improving the crystal quality and chemical purity of an explosive called TATB by adding to it unique green solvents.
"Improving crystal quality and purity leads to explosive materials that are safer (less likely to react violently) when subjected to mechanical impact or heat," said Larry Fried, the principal investigator on the project that has been described in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.
Materials like TATB are bound together by a strong network of hydrogen-bonds that makes them nearly insoluble in common organic solvents, leading to poor quality and limited size crystals that in turn hinders progress in many technological applications.
Lead author Amitesh Maiti says that he has found that a special class of ionic liquids containing fluoride anions (atoms with more electrons than protons) are highly effective in dissolving hydrogen-bonded materials.
"The design of custom solvents through first principles modelling opens up new possibilities for the dissolution of materials that are hard to dissolve," the researchers said.
In an experiment, the research team could successfully dissolve TATB in such solvents and grow large defect-free crystallites, which would lead to a better formulated material for explosive applications.
The researchers reckon that their dissolution process may have applications in the production of polymers (plastics) or molecular solids (pharmaceuticals, paints, propellants, explosives).
They, however, say that their immediate goal is to find a cost-effective way to improve the quality of low purity TATB.