The Propellant Research Group cover a diverse range of fields, from min smoke propellants to nitrocellulose formulation, to graphene application for propellants to laser ignition of propellants and nitrate ester decomposition chemistry.

The research team consists of academics, PhD students and visiting fellows working within the Centre for Defence Chemistry. Over the past ten years we have developed into a centre of excellence in propellant research with a special focus on nitrocellulose chemistry and the interaction of polymer binders with crystalline energetic fillers. We have specialist labs in the areas of chemical synthesis, formulation and manufacture, thermo-chemical characterisation and combustion chemistry. The Propellant Research Laboratories consist of four main laboratories:

Synthesis and Formulation Laboratory

The laboratory research is focused on the synthesis of binders and energetic materials and their formulation into propellant compositions. The laboratory consists of synthetic chemistry facilities, flow chemistry, Resonant Acoustic Mixers (RAM) with vacuum and heating control, an IKA vertical planetary high shear mixer with vacuum and heating is available. The press facility currently contains a double-acting 10-tonne press housed within an H-frame and a separate 100-tonne double-acting, long-stroke press.

Characterisation and Ageing Laboratory

This laboratory primarily supports research into understanding the chemistry and thermal decomposition chemistry of nitrocellulose and nitrocellulose base propellants. However, additional interests include all aspects of solid propellant characterisation. Facilities include chromatography; mass spectrometry; RAMAN spectroscopy; FTIR spectroscopy; UV-Vis spectroscopy; laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS); inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS); NMR spectroscopy; vacuum stability analysis; mass loss test; Abel heat test; chemiluminescence analysis; humidity conditioning chambers; and heat flow calorimetry.

Thermo-Mechanical Laboratory

This laboratory investigates the material and chemical properties of propellant materials to better understand the properties of propellants and to populate, or validate, materials and physical/chemical ageing models. Facilities within the laboratory include DSC; TGA; DMA; mechanical testing with high and low temperature heating control; rheometry; micro/nano hardness; coefficient of thermal expansion; SEM/optical microscopy; and CT X-ray analysis.

Ballistics and Combustion Laboratory

This laboratory's focus is on researching propellant combustion chemistry, laser ignition mechanisms of propellants, studying propellant ballistics, and ballistic modifier chemistry. Facilities within the laboratory include laser ignition and propellant closed vessel testing.