Core competence "explosives technology, safety and security"

We are the only German research institute to cover the entire development chain for propellants and explosives. The continuity and the ongoing relevance of this expertise has shaped our research for the Federal Ministry of Defence since our foundation in 1959. The institute also supports industrial customers and the public sector in investigating national and international security questions.

Areas of expertise

Development of propellants and explosives

We deal with all aspects of the development, production and application of propellants and explosives, and can consequently manage the complexity of explosives technology along the entire competence chain. This includes molecular design, chemical synthesis, processing, shaping, and analytical characterization of high-energy materials and derived formulations for rocket propellants, gun propellants and explosives, which we develop and evaluate in the form of prototypes, small batches and demonstrators.

In line with our founding motivation as the “Institute for Propellants and Explosives” in 1959, this expertise is primarily defense-oriented, and serves to maintain the analysis and evaluation capability of the German army. This advisory expertise is secured by basic funding from the Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg).

Synthesis, processing and manufacturing methods

Modern propellant and explosive formulations are highly filled plastics. Their burning behavior, detonation behavior, sensitivity and mechanical properties are strongly dependent on the particle and crystal properties of the fillers. The optimum design of the fillers (explosives and additives) is therefore the key to achieving subsequent product properties. For this purpose, we develop and test comminution, crystallization, prilling and coating processes.

New substances must be available on a kg scale in order to test their performance properties in formulations. Our reaction technology therefore forms the bridge from laboratory synthesis to robust, upscalable production techniques, in order to provide sufficient sample material for further steps, including industrial developments. For the various product groups of gun propellants, rocket propellants, gas generators, explosives and pyrotechnics, special processing techniques tailored to the respective explosives are applied and developed. These include processes for mixing and homogenizing, pressing, extruding, injection molding or foaming.

Performance measurement and characterization

The chemical synthesis of new explosives, whose properties are not yet known or are poorly understood, is challenging and requires special methods to measure and characterize performance. Our basic methods include the measurement of friction and impact sensitivity, thermal behavior, stability, compatibility, purity, crystal structure, mechanical behavior and the determination of other chemical and physical parameters. A particular area of expertise is thermodynamic power calculations with our own Fraunhofer ICT code. We have the secure infrastructure and extensive measurement technology needed to characterize the burning, deflagration and detonation behavior of propellants and explosives. This includes technology developed within the institute.

Modeling and simulation

We accompany experimental investigations with modeling and simulation calculations. These include quantum mechanical and molecular dynamic simulations, the modeling of burnup behavior using kinetic models, and calculation of the expected stability, aging and performance.

Stability and aging behavior

We have extensive experience and experimental methods to determine the kinetic parameters of energetic materials. This allows us to measure thermal and mechanical stability, aging behavior including long-term predictions, and compatibility in formulations. We are proficient in handling all types of energetic materials, including highly sensitive materials such as nitroglycerin or TATP.

Explosives detection

Our knowledge of the production and properties of explosives makes us particularly well qualified to engage intensively in national and European security research. One focus of our work is the remote and trace detection of explosives, including so-called home-made explosives (HMEs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). We determine the properties of HMEs and IEDs, and research methods to detect them. Because we can safely assess terrorist explosives and fabricate them for testing purposes, we operate a test center for aviation security detection equipment on behalf of the German Federal Police, and support them with security issues relating to HMEs. In our test center for 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. In cooperation with the German Federal Police, the institute also tests and certifies such systems for use in European airports.

Furthermore, we draw on our explosives expertise to solve current challenges in technical safety, for example hydrogen safety, explosion protection, fire protection and the control of thermal runaway reactions in chemical synthesis processes and energy storage systems.

Facilities and equipment

Handling explosives requires structural and technical precautions as well as organizational measures for working under maximum safety. All the necessary facilities and technical equipment are available at Fraunhofer ICT, some of which are very complex.

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 100g 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 14,000 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, software tool for powder burn-off, software tool for 3D form function
  • 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 nano-computed tomograph
  • 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

From molecules to prototypes

We research and develop new energetic materials and systems for the German army, and our expertise serves to maintain 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 ignition and initiation systems. Within the framework of national and European security research we develop 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.

In our development of propellant and explosive systems, we adjust the performance characteristics for individual application profiles and requirements. For this purpose, new energetic materials are synthesized, modified and optimized in our laboratories, suitable process technologies are developed and the energetic products are formulated and manufactured in our pilot plants.

Besides achieving application-specific performance characteristics, our research and development of propellant and explosive systems also emphasizes their insensitivity and stability. There is also an increasing demand for technologies and products that conserve resources, that are environmentally friendly and that do not pose a health risk.

Our current research topics include performance-enhanced, environmentally compatible and low-signature solid rocket propellants for defense and civilian (e.g. aerospace) 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 the additive manufacturing of energetic materials to achieve material gradients and complex geometries also form part of our work.

Networks and alliances

In the field of explosives technology and security research, we are part of the Fraunhofer Segment for Defense and Security VVS, in which eleven institutes have pooled their expertise to coordinate and implement research activities in the field of defense and security. We are also a member of the Fraunhofer Lead-Market-Oriented Alliance for Aviation and Space.

"Our many decades of experience cover the entire development chain from the raw product to the system prototype in the development of propellants and high explosives."


Sebastian Wurster

Contact Press / Media

Dr.-Ing. Sebastian Wurster

Spokesman of the core competence

Fraunhofer-Institut für Chemische Technologie ICT
Joseph-von-Fraunhofer-Straße 7
76327 Pfinztal

Phone +49 721 4640-209

Uwe Schaller

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Uwe Schaller

Spokesman of the core competence

Fraunhofer-Institut für Chemische Technologie ICT
Joseph-von-Fraunhofer-Straße 7
76327 Pfinztal

Phone +49 721 4640-676