Physics & chemistry of energetic nanomaterials

The manufacturing and processing of enhanced energetic materials include the formulation, elaboration and characterisation of pyrotechnic compositions, propellants and explosives. The research activities in the field of Nanomaterials under extreme sollicitation are conducted within the NS3E joint laboratory of ISL, the French National Research Center-CNRS and the University of Strasbourg.


  • Formulating nanostructured energetic compounds
  • Providing  continuous crystallisation of energetic nanomaterials
  • Providing ultrafine detection of traces of  explosives and  illegal substances
  • Producing ultrafine nanodiamonds by detonation of explosives

Advanced materials & mechanical testing

This field covers the elaboration of massive materials by means of powder metallurgy (i.e. powder synthesis and sintering) and their characterisation – from intrinsic properties (structure, chemical composition, thermal properties) to mechanical and dynamical behaviour (e.g. tests using Hopkinson bars).

Competences focus on the making of light metals and ceramic-based materials (nanostructuration, metal or ceramic matrix composites, functionally graded and hybrid materials).

  • Improving the properties of materials by using powder metallurgy and sintering procedures to adapt materials to specific needs (weight, resistance, costs etc.)
  • Developing materials with enhanced ballistic protection properties

Propellants, energetic materials

ISL has unique experience in using propellants and pyrotechnic compositions for propellant ignition to accelerate projectiles in small-to-large-caliber guns.

The basic scientific issue is to understand the physical mechanisms occurring during the initiation phase and the combustion phase of a propellant and their complex mutual interaction.

  • Studying the mechanisms which determine the insensitivity and initiation velocity of energetic materials
  • Designing systems for improved ignition and combustion of propellants (plasma ignition nanothermites)
  • Interior ballistics 

Shock physics & detonics

Pyrotechnic and explosive devices are investigated for a wide range of applications. Basic and applied research activities cover the formulation and structural design of explosives, sensitivity analysis, physics of combustion, deflagration and detonation as well as the effects of shock waves on inert materials.

The main topics of interest at ISL include opto-pyrotechnic technology for fuzing systems, impulse thrusters for guided ammunition as well as very insensitive explosives (e.g. patented VRDX : very insensitive RDX).

  • Reducing the sensitivity of explosives by controlling their microstructure
  • Developing pyrotechnic fusing systems for space and defense applications