Small angle X-ray scattering analysis of the effect of cold compaction of Al/MoO3 thermite composites

Joshua A. Hammons, Wei Wang, Jan Ilavsky, Michelle L. Pantoya, Brandon L. Weeks, Mark W. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Nanothermites composed of aluminum and molybdenum trioxide (MoO 3) have a high energy density and are attractive energetic materials. To enhance the surface contact between the spherical Al nanoparticles and the sheet-like MoO3 particles, the mixture can be cold-pressed into a pelleted composite. However, it was found that the burn rate of the pellets decreased as the density of the pellets increased, contrary to expectation. Ultra-small angle X-ray scattering (USAXS) data and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were used to elucidate the internal structure of the Al nanoparticles, and nanoparticle aggregate in the composite. Results from both SEM imaging and USAXS analysis indicate that as the density of the pellet increased, a fraction of the Al nanoparticles are compressed into sintered aggregates. The sintered Al nanoparticles lost contrast after forming the larger aggregates and no longer scattered X-rays as individual particles. The sintered aggregates hinder the burn rate, since the Al nanoparticles that make them up can no longer diffuse freely as individual particles during combustion. Results suggest a qualitative relationship for the probability that nanoparticles will sinter, based on the particle sizes and the initial structure of their respective agglomerates, as characterized by the mass fractal dimension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-199
Number of pages7
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


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