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Chemist Creates Safer Form of Ammo

August 4, 2006

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) _ A Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist has come up with a less-toxic explosive that has potential uses in hunting and in military ammunition.

Chemist My Hang Huynh developed a new type of primary explosive, which are the explosives that, for example, ignite the main charges in a bullet or conventional bomb. The lab owns three patents.

Huynh said the new explosive is cleaner, safer and less expensive to produce than traditional lead azide and lead styphnate primary explosives, which have been in use since 1907.

Government officials say the discovery could better protect workers who manufacture ammunition or explosives as well as reduce pollution of land and water near shooting ranges and military bases.

The new primary explosive is made with iron, nitrogen, carbon and oxygen instead of lead. Lead is toxic to humans, and chronic exposure can result in birth defects, miscarriage and learning disabilities.

``Unfortunately, devices using lead primary explosives are manufactured by the tens of millions each year in the U.S. alone,″ Huynh wrote in a report.

A research magazine, R&D, recently recognized Huynh’s work with a set of annual awards for the best applied research. The U.S. Navy also commended Huynh’s research.

``The replacement of lead azide is an extremely challenging task,″ said C.A. Pfleegor, an engineering division director in the Naval Surface Warfare Center. ``It has become a holy grail of energetic materials research.″

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, www.sfnewmexican.com

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