Reactive materials refers to a broad category of materials that are closer to a pyrotechnic or a propellant than a traditional high explosive. They often rely on metal combustion to create incendiary or overpressure effects that can augment the lethality of a warhead or projectile. Several metals (such as aluminum, boron, magnesium, and others) have much higher heats of combustion than detonable explosives, but release this energy via slower combustion processes. Reactive materials offer a means to increase the energy density of a warhead or explosive in exchange for a slower reaction.
My group has been studying reactive materials with a particular emphasis on their fragmentation and how it couples to the combustion energy release. Most reactives are brittle, and on high-velocity impact or explosive loading they generate a fine debris. The fragmentation is interesting both from an application sense for weapons systems, but also as a basic high-rate physical phenomenon whose governing processes are poorly understood.
My group has a range of efforts on weapons effects and the study of novel explosives, and we do both computational and experimental work in this area. Computational work includes atomistic simulations (primarily using density functional theory) to examine the structure and thermochemistry of new explosives or explosive additives, as well as continuum-scale hydrocode studies to examine weapons effects. Experimental work ranges from on-site ballistics and material fabrication at Naval Postgraduate School, up to large-scale explosives testing at offsite test ranges and other Navy facilities.