Core competence "explosives technology, safety and security"

Based on decades of experience, Fraunhofer ICT is the only German research institute that covers the entire development chain from the raw product to the system prototype in the development of propellants and high explosives. The institute supports the German Federal Ministry of Defence, the public sector and industrial customers in investigating current challenges concerning national and international security.

spray drying plant
© Fraunhofer ICT
spray drying plant

From raw products to prototypes

Fraunhofer ICT researches and develops new energetic materials and systems for the German army, and thus helps to ensure the strong analysis and decision-making capability of the German Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg). Research is focused on the design, development, production and characterization of new materials and components for rocket propellants, gun propellants, explosives, pyrotechnics and new ignition and initiation systems. The portfolio is supplemented by safety and protective systems based on gas generators, decoys, fire protection coatings and filter materials for protective applications.

In the development of propellant and explosive systems, performance characteristics are adjusted and optimized for individual application profiles and requirements. To this end, new energetic materials are synthesized and modified in Fraunhofer ICT‘s laboratories, new processing techniques are developed and the energetic products are formulated and fabricated in the institute‘s pilot plants. Besides the application-specific performance properties of propellant and explosive systems, their insensitivity and stability are also important research and development challenges, as are the increasing demands for technologies and products that conserve resources, are environmentally friendly and pose no health risks. The research groups for interior ballistics and detonics then characterize and evaluate the combustion and reaction behavior, sensitivity and performance data of the products in the laboratory, detonation chamber or on openair testing ranges, up to the kilogram scale. In addition, modern simulation software is available, which can be used to analyze and evaluate the performance and safety of new energetic materials from the molecular level up to the system.

Current research topics include performanceenhanced, environmentally compatible and low-signature solid rocket propellants for defense and civilian applications, insensitive high-performance explosives and propellants, and gel propellants that enable controlled rocket thrust phases. High-precision measurement techniques for the characterization of rocket exhaust jets and pyrotechnic decoys, new shaping techniques such as modern crystallization and coating processes, and additive manufacturing of energetic materials to realize material gradients and complex geometries are also the subject of current R&D work.

Within the framework of national and European security research, Fraunhofer ICT is involved in the development of novel sensor and measurement concepts for the standoff and trace detection of explosives, including so-called home-made explosives (HMEs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The institute also operates a test center for explosives detection systems for aviation security, on behalf of the German Federal Police.

Copper cylinder test – photonic doppler velocimetry (PDV) to determine the expansion work
© Fraunhofer ICT
Copper cylinder test – photonic doppler velocimetry (PDV) to determine the expansion work

Networks and alliances

In the field of explosives technology and security research, Fraunhofer ICT is part of the Fraunhofer Segment for Defense and Security VVS, in which eleven institutes have pooled their competences to coordinate and implement research activities in the field of defense and security. Fraunhofer ICT is also a member of the Fraunhofer Space Alliance – an association of 17 Fraunhofer institutes that conduct applied research in the field of space technology.

With its competence in explosives, the institute is also actively involved in numerous national and international projects (BMVg, EDA, NATO, EU, BMBF, BMI, BMWi). It also works with the German Federal Ministry of Defense in the context of bilateral research agreements. Operating a Test Center for Explosives Detection Systems on behalf of the German Federal Police, the institute contributes its know-how to international committees aiming to improve aviation security.

Research and technology

We offer research and development in all areas of explosives technology for the German Federal Ministry of Defence and other public authorities, the defence and security industry, and the automotive and aerospace sectors. One focus of our R&D services is the development, design and evaluation of energetic products and systems based on the long-standing expertise of our employees and our specialized equipment and infrastructure. We develop demonstrators, prototypes and small series of new propellants and explosives as well as customized synthesis and process technologies. The experimental work is supported by thermodynamic calculations as well as quantum mechanical and molecular dynamics simulations.

Software-assisted analysis and design tools, developed and applied at Fraunhofer ICT, enable the screening of new propellant and explosive formulations, for example based on their performance, safety, erosivity and environmental compatibility. In the case of gun propellants and ballistics, this also includes the consideration of system aspects of weapons and ammunition. We are also able to provide support and evaluation at each stage in the development of pyrotechnic safety systems (e.g. airbags) according to application and customer requirements.

In our test center for explosive detection systems, we offer the manufacturers of airport scanners and detection devices the opportunity to carry out tests with real explosives and reference substances, in order to evaluate and optimize their systems. Furthermore, in cooperation with the German Federal Police, the institute tests and certifies such systems for use in European airports.

Facilities and equipment

Pilot plants and test stands

  • Chemical pilot plants and synthesis laboratories for explosives
  • Pilot plants for the manufacturing and processing of explosive products
  • Safety boxes and testing site for explosion and safety/security investigations
  • Test Center for Explosives Detection
  • Detonation chamber (up to 2 kg TNT)
  • Detonation tank (up to 100 g TNT)
  • Test stands for guns up to 20 mm caliber
  • Gas pressure measuring systems for 5.56 mm to 12.7 mm and 20 mm
  • 100 m shooting range
  • Combustion test stand for rocket engines and flares
  • Flow test stand for investigation of pyrotechnic systems


  • Pilot plants for the production of explosive particles
  • Flow chemistry test stands and synthesis units
  • Fluidized-bed coater
  • Spray crystallization unit
  • High-pressure plant for isostatic compression molding
  • Special kneaders, mixers, pelletizers and presses with explosion protection

Software tools

  • Thermochemical codes for the thermodynamic evaluation of propellants, RFTS, SS and pyrotechnics. Examples: ICT Thermodynamic Code, EKVI code, Cheetah 2.0., EXPLO5
  • ICT thermodynamics database with over 14000 substances
  • Computational fluid dynamic (CFD) codes, such as SPEED, Ansys Fluent, Ansys Autodyn, Ansys Mechanical,...
  • ICT-BAM for spectroscopic temperature measurement
  • Interior ballistic codes such as SimIB-0D, FNGun-1D, ballistic analysis and evaluation tool BAA (ICT), software tool for powder burn-off (ICT), software tool for 3D form function (ICT)
  • Quantum mechanical and molecular dynamic simulation tools

Analytical equipment and laboratories

  • Atomic force microscope, field emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM) with variable pressure and energydispersive X-ray and nanoanalytics (EDX)
  • Micro- and nanocomputer tomography scanner
  • Thermoanalytical laboratory, micro- and reaction calorimeter, test stand for aging behavior
  • Laboratory for mechanical testing and rheology
  • Ballistic and optical facilities to determine combustion speed and measure flame temperature
  • Laboratory for X-ray diffractometry
  • Laboratory for chromatographic and spectroscopic analysis (IR and RAMAN microscopy)
  • Online spectroscopy (UV/VIS/NIR/RAMAN)
  • High-speed camera and spectrometer systems; hyperspectral cameras
  • Ballistic bombs for all propellant powder types including evaluation software
  • Optical and Crawford bomb for solid rocket propellants
  • Blast measurement technology, QSP and temperature for detonation chamber and detonation tank
  • Manganin pressure probes for measurements up to 400 kbar
  • 4-channel photonic doppler velocimeter for transient
    velocity measurement up to 5 km/s
  • Detonation velocity measurement
  • Various safety test setups, for example Koenen test,
    21 mm and 50 mm GAP test