A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa project that may help the military develop safer molecular energetic materials received a major boost from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The $600,000 grant over three years will help Department of Chemistry Assistant Professor Rui Sun and Professor Ralf Kaiser study the reactions of molecular-based chemical compounds that are widely used in energetic materials. The project will also focus on the cocrystal, in which these compounds are crystallized together for improved stability and reliability.
The project goal is to determine the mechanism of the reactions of molecular-based energetic materials and their cocrystals. Current knowledge of their decomposition processes are limited and pose a major challenge in developing the next-generation of molecular energetic materials containing these compounds.
Kaiser and Sun will use emerging techniques in analytical photoionization and detection methodologies, along with state-of-the-art methods in computational chemistry. All of the work will take place at the UH Mānoa Department of Chemistry. Additional computational support is provided by a supercomputer called Mana—a free resource for UH system faculty, staff and students—provided by UH’s Information Technology Services.
“This research project pushes the boundary of our knowledge on the interplay between the molecular structure of the energetic material and their behavior, such as performance and sensitivity, and will play a critical role in designing and synthesizing the next-generation energetic material,” Sun said.
Supporting national defense
The Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) award by the DoD is one of 17 nationwide selected out of 150 applications. Projects were selected based on their ability to pursue science and engineering research in areas relevant to DoD initiatives supporting the national defense strategy.
“DEPSCoR aims to enhance science and engineering research capabilities at institutions of higher education and to increase the number of researchers pursuing research in DoD relevant areas to increase the long-term research growth and capability,” said Bindu Nair, director of the DoD’s Basic Research Office. “It is crucial that we build a Department of Defense research infrastructure that strategically uses the research capabilities found across the country.”
This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.