Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering (MSMSE)


Materials Engineering

First Advisor

David F. Bahr

Committee Chair

David F. Bahr

Committee Member 1

Teresa M. Carvajal

Committee Member 2

Stephen F. Son

Committee Member 3

Jeffrey P. Youngblood


The hardness and reduced modulus of aspirin, RDX, HMX, TATB, FOX-7, ADAAF, and TNT/CL-20 were experimentally measured with nanoindentation. These values are reported for the first time using as-received micron sized crystals of energetic materials with no additional mechanical processing. The results for TATB, ADAAF, and TNT/CL-20 are the first of their kind, while comparisons to previous nanoindentation studies on large, carefully grown single crystals of the other energetic materials show that mechanical properties of the larger crystals are comparable to crystals in the condition they are practically used. Measurements on aspirin demonstrate the variation that can occur between nanoindentation indents based on the orientation of a Berkovich tip relative to the surface of the sample. The Hertzian elastic contact model was used to analyze the materials initial yield, or pop-in, behavior. The length, energy, indentation load, and shear stress at initial yielding were used to characterize each material. For the energetic materials the length and energy of the yield excursions were compared to the drop weight sensitivity. This comparison revealed a general trend that more impact sensitive materials have longer, more severe pop-in excursions. Hot spot initiation mechanisms involving crystal defects such as void collapses and dislocation pile-up followed by avalanche are supported by these trends. While this only takes one aspect of impact sensitivity into consideration, if this trend is observed in a larger range of energetics these methods could possibly be used to great advantage in the early stages of new explosives synthesis to obtain an estimation of drop weight sensitivity.