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The advent of environmentally friendly explosives has moved a step closer, with German scientists solving the problem of water absorption in one promising compound - the moisture literally turns the compound into a damp squib.
"It may sound strange that military are concerned about health and safety," says Thomas Klapotke, at the University of Munich. "But 99.9 percent of missile launches and explosions take place in training, over your own territory and involving your own personnel."
Conventional explosives and missile propellants are packed with metals and halogens, which can be harmful before and after combustion. Even guns can produce smogs of lead compounds in the indoor shooting ranges now used by many police forces, because lead azide is used as the initiator.
The key difficulty that remains to be overcome is cost. Currently green explosives are 100 times more expensive to produce than conventional ones. Klapotke believes that even at best the new generation materials will be double or triple the price, but says that the military is highly committed to developing less environmentally harmful options. "If your new explosive has metals or halogens in, its not even worth putting on the drawing board," he says.