The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Nation
Explosives meant to kill and destroy but being designed to minimise damage to the environment without compromising upon their lethality sounds strange. Yet this is what the scientific community is now seriously contemplating.
Being referred to “green explosives”, these bombs, and also propellants for missiles and rockets, would be using ingredients that release lesser toxic elements than the emissions of chemical compositions being used at present.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has also initiated work on developing eco-friendly explosives and propellants. “We are also looking to collaborate with some friendly countries in this arena,” a senior scientist who attended the High Energy Materials Conference and Exhibits at DRDO’s Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory here said. “The United Kingdom, Ukraine, Germany and Russia are among the prospective partners,” he added.
According to defence scientists, the fallout of a chemical explosion does not merely end with the detonation, but the adverse effects of the chemicals continue to linger on in the environment for a long time. This not only affects the atmosphere, but also the ground soil and its organic and inorganic constituents, including agricultural-friendly organisms in the vicinity of the blast site. Similarly, rocket engines emit a huge amount of toxic gases and other elements during combustion and their flight through the atmosphere.
“Among the options we are exploring is to avoid the use of certain aluminum-based compounds in rocket propellants. Similarly lead compounds in explosives can be replaced,” Dr A. Shubhanand Rao, Chief Controller, DRDO said. “Also, we are studying methodologies to safely dispose-off such toxic materials, where their use if inevitable, through processes known as green-synthesis,” he added.
DRDO’s High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) is the nodal agency for research and development of explosive materials. It has recently developed CL-20, being claimed as the world’s most powerful convectional explosive. Dr Rao said CL-20 is about 30 per cent more powerful than the RDX. It is now being produced by a private firm, but is an expensive material costing over Rs 70,000 per kg.