Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Steven F. Son

Committee Chair

Steven F. Son

Committee Member 1

John S. Bolton

Committee Member 2

Lori J. Groven

Committee Member 3

Jeffrey F. Rhoads


In this work, the ability to use high frequency mechanical excitation to generate significant heating within plastic bonded explosives, as well as single energetic particles embedded within a viscoelastic binder, is studied. In this work, the fundamental mechanisms associated with the conversion of high-frequency mechanical excitation to heat as applied to these composite energetic systems are thoroughly investigated.

High-frequency contact excitation has been used to generate a significant amount of heat within samples of PBX 9501 and representative inert mock materials. Surface temperature rises on the order of 10 °C were observed at certain frequencies over a range from 50 kHz to 40 MHz at thermal steady state conditions. The mechanical responses of these samples were also measured to explore the connection between the thermal and bulk motion of the samples. It was found that significant heating of the samples near the transducer resonance was driven by the bulk motion of the material while heating observed at higher frequencies were attributed to particle-scale interactions.

To further investigate the interactions occurring at the particle scale, similar excitation was applied to samples of an elastic binder embedded with individual inert or energetic particles. Samples were excited over a range of 100 kHz to 20 MHz, and two distinct frequency regions were observed with separate characteristic heating trends. Through the comparison of the measured surface motion of the sample to the spatial temperature maps of the surface, it was determined that for heating observed in the samples at excitation frequencies above 1 MHz, the heat generation was due viscoelastic effects of the binder near the sample surface. However, at excitation frequencies near the transducer resonance of 215 kHz, it was determined that significant heat was generated at the inclusion and was associated with particle-binder interactions. For these cases of particle associated heating, an analytical heat conduction model was fit to the collected surface temperature data to estimate the heating rates and temperatures associated with the embedded particles.

To investigate the potential of stress concentrations to generate localized heating near an inclusion due to viscoelastic losses, an analytical solution of the stress and temperature fields caused by wave scattering effects due to a spherical inclusion within a lossy binder was developed. Results indicate that under certain excitation and sample configurations, significant heating can occur due to stress concentrations caused by constructive interference of the waves near the inclusion and temperatures are predicted to approach or exceed realistic decomposition temperatures of various energetic materials. This analysis indicates that significant heating of the embedded particles can be induced without the presence of delamination or voids; however, this phenomenon it thought to mainly be a precursor or driver to more dynamic events associated with debonding between the particle and binder.

Finally, high speed X-ray phase contrast imaging and high speed visible microscopy were used to demonstrate the individual heating mechanisms associated with the heating and subsequent decomposition of an HMX particle within a viscoelastic binder under ultrasonic excitation. Additional analysis of the transient surface temperature of the sample was used to characterize and quantify the heat generation produced from each observed heating mechanism. The results and developed methods presented in this work should prove useful in the understanding of the conversion of mechanical to thermal energy via various mechanisms within composite energetic systems. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.)