Dropping the hammer: Examining impact ignition and combustion using pre-stressed aluminum powder

Kevin J. Hill, Juliusz Warzywoda, Michelle L. Pantoya, Valery I. Levitas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Pre-stressing aluminum (Al) particles by annealing and quenching Al powder alters particle mechanical properties and has also been linked to an increase in particle reactivity. Specifically, energy propagation in composites consisting of aluminum mixed with copper oxide (Al + CuO) exhibits a 24% increase in flame speed when using pre-stressed aluminum (PS Al) compared to Al of the same particle size. However, no data exist for the reactivity of PS Al powders under impact loading. In this study, a drop weight impact tester with pressure cell was designed and built to examine impact ignition sensitivity and combustion of PS Al when mixed with CuO. Both micron and nanometer scale powders (i.e., μAl and nAl, respectively) were pre-stressed, then combined with CuO and analyzed. Three types of ignition and combustion events were identified: ignition with complete combustion, ignition with incomplete combustion, and no ignition or combustion. The PS nAl + CuO demonstrated a lower impact ignition energy threshold for complete combustion, differing from nAl + CuO samples by more than 3.5 J/mg. The PS nAl + CuO also demonstrated significantly more complete combustion as evidenced by pressure history data during ignition and combustion. Additional material characterization provides insight on hot spot formation in the incomplete combustion samples. The most probable reasons for higher impact-induced reactivity of pre-stressed particles include (a) delayed but more intense fracture of the pre-stressed alumina shell due to release of energy of internal stresses during fracture and (b) detachment of the shell from the core during impact due to high tensile stresses in the Al core leading to much more pronounced fracture of unsupported shells and easy access of oxygen to the Al core. The μAl + CuO composites did not ignite, even under pre-stressed conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125102
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 28 2017


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