Cold Detonation Physics (CDP) is the name for the field of detonatable explosive formulations where the detonation occurs in a cryogenic system. Inventor, Daren Swanson, sometimes refers to such systems as Cryogenic Explosives, which means very low temperature explosives.
In the case of CDP, we are working with dry ice and reducing agents like magnesium or aluminum. At atmospheric pressure dry ice has a relatively fixed temperature of minus 78.5 degrees Celsius (-109.3 F). The term “detonation physics” in the traditional field of explosives refers to the technical means by which a detonation propagates through a cylindrical length of explosive, typically contained in a pipe or a borehole in a mine. Thus, “Cold” Detonation Physics was adopted.
In traditional detonation physics, a shock-sensitive intimate combination of oxygen and agents that can be oxidized by oxygen (namely carbon and hydrogen) undergo very rapid combustion. When measured, the speed at which hydrogen and carbon combust in a detonation is well over 340 m/s, which is speed of sound. A detonation, therefore, can be described as a supersonic combustion reaction that is initiated by a high-pressure shock delivered by an electric detonator or a detonator plus an explosive booster. If the velocity is less than 340 m/s, the reaction is merely rapid combustion.
In Cold Detonation Physics, the mechanics of detonation are very different from what occurs within traditional explosives. With CDP, a shock-sensitive cylindrical length of detonatable mixture of dry ice and reducing agents is detonated with a detonator and an explosive booster, just as with a traditional explosive. The velocity, which has been measured by the Canadian Explosives Research Lab, varies according to the formulation and ranges from 1000 m/s to over 2500 m/s (2237 to 5592 mph) and is therefore recognized as a detonation by traditional standards.
The difference between CDP and traditional explosives is the combustion reaction and mechanism for detonation. First, the combustion reaction in CDP is the rapid reduction of CO2 back to carbon through the oxidation of reducing agents, not the combustion of hydrogen and carbon. Second, the method by which a detonation travels through a CDP sample is facilitated by the vaporization of dry ice at the detonation wave front, which creates very high pressure. Traditional explosives produce gas while detonating. CDP does not – it uses excess dry ice in the formulation to produce the effect of gas being produced.
In a traditional detonation, gases formed from combustion are generated at the high temperature wave front to create very high pressure. This pressure and heat causes the explosive just ahead of the wave front to combust, which makes more gas and heat and carries the process forward. This process for detonation is made possible because of the creation of the following gases: CO2 and CO from burning carbon fuel, steam from vaporized water formed from the combustion of hydrogen fuel, and nitrogen gas as well as nitrogen oxides (NOx).
In traditional explosives nitrogen is a main constituent of all explosives because, in certain compounds, nitrogen is an element that can be used to bond to oxygen and therefore deliver dense amounts of oxygen in a solid format to a formulation containing carbon and hydrogen fuel. The intimate proximity of oxygen and the hydrocarbon fuel contributes to the shock-sensitivity of the explosive compound or mixture.
To compare once again, CDP detonations do not create gases from a combustion reaction. Instead, the CDP combustion reaction creates solid carbon and solid reducing agent oxides plus the heat needed to vaporize excess dry ice at the detonation wave front. The hot vaporized CO2 causes the dry ice and reducing agent mixture just ahead of the wave front to combust, which creates more solids plus the heat needed to vaporize more dry ice into hot CO2 gas, which carries the reaction forward. This process is completely different when compared to traditional explosives.
And just to refresh, why are we so excited about this?
There are many reasons to be excited. First, a whole new field of nitrogen free explosives and detonation mechanics has been discovered and patented. A field where this variety of explosive can be used in existing explosives applications with the huge environmental benefit that absolutely no toxic NOx gases are created from their use. NOx gases are toxic to all life and have been reported as being over 300 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, which CDP consumes during its use.
Second, the unique CDP combustion reaction produces elemental carbon under very high temperature and pressure, which causes a portion of that carbon to emerge as small particles of diamond that are so tiny that their size can be measured in billionths of a meter, or nanometers. In the field of nanotechnology, this type of diamond is referred to as nanodiamond. Unlike competing processes that use traditional carbon-producing explosives like TNT blended with RDX to make nanodiamond, we can use CDP to mass produce it with consistent physical properties and without nitrogen contamination. TNT and RDX unavoidably contaminates its resulting nanodiamond with nitrogen.
Finally, CDP also produces finely powdered oxides of the reducing agents used in the formulation. Upon detonation, the oxide particle sizes range from very small micron to large nano. This feature is incredible and means CDP can be used to produce customized abrasive powders for industrial and commercial polishing applications at a time when there is a huge trend in manufacturing toward finer and finer abrasives that no existing source is capable of providing.
From an application perspective, clean biocompatible nanodiamond made from CDP can be used in the medical industry to produce chemotherapy-enhanced versions that have been proven to target and eliminate cancer. Nanodiamond, when mass-produced, can be added to gasoline and engine oil to cause an overall global decrease in fuel consumption of 5 – 20% depending on the type of vehicle. And nanodiamond can be inexpensively compressed into larger particles that possess far superior abrasive utility than existing abrasive particles of the same size.
CDP is essentially one of the only methods to process the waste greenhouse gas CO2 into an inert material that has a high market value and existing applications where the demand for it exceeds the current supply. CDP is a carbon-capture technology that can be used to make a material whose application in several industries can further reduce carbon emissions and generate environmental benefits.
So, that’s a lot to be excited about!