Energetic Material Hazards

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) offers a full range of experimental and analytical services to evaluate energetic material hazards. Resources include large- and small-scale fire testing facilities, explosive and propellant test ranges, vapor and dust explosion facilities, and computer code libraries for modeling studies.

SwRI's fire research facilities reproduce effects on structures and components at a manageable scale and at greatly reduced cost over full-scale tests.

Driven by increasingly stringent regulations, companies worldwide are being charged with assessing the safety and hazards of the materials they handle or produce. Some regulations are motivated by accidents, whereas others are intended to minimize the hazards of normal operations. SwRI has assembled a multidisciplinary team of engineers, scientists, chemists, physicists, and mathematicians to address the hazards of potentially energetic materials. Services offered include:

Fire Effects

  • Standard and customized fire performance testing
  • High-temperature, erosive jet fire simulations
  • Pool fire effects
  • Response of structures and materials to fire
  • Fire protection and suppression evaluation
  • Heat of combustion and rates of heat release

In addition to consulting with industry on the use of flame arresters, SwRI conducts flashback, deflagration/detonation, and continuous burn tests to evaluate arrester performance.

Analysis, Modeling, and Audits

  • Fire and explosion modeling
  • Exothermic reactions simulation
  • Thermal effects modeling
  • Process safety audits

Dust Explosibility

  • Explosibility index
  • Minimum explosion concentration
  • Peak pressure and pressure rise rate
  • Minimum ignition energy
  • Minimum oxygen concentration
  • Minimum ingnition temperature

Blast Effects

  • Design and analysis of blast resistance
  • Determination of blast loads
  • Simulation and investigation of accidental explosions
  • Requirements for quantity-distance

The explosive potential of dusts is studied in the laboratory to establish safe operating practices.

Explosive and Propellant Hazards

  • Minimum ignition energy
  • Friction, shock, impact, and electrostatic sensitivity
  • Thermal stability
  • Venting requirements
  • TNT equivalence

Explosive Atmospheres

  • Explosion-proof electrical enclosures
  • Intrinsic safety
  • Vapor cloud explosions
  • Minimum experimentl safe gap (MESG) and flammability limits
  • Detonation and flame arrester performance

The effects of blast on structures and equipment are studied in full-and reduced-scale experiments that replicate actual events.


The SwRI Department of Fire Technology is accredited by the International Accreditation Service, Inc. (IAS), which encompasses the three major model building code jurisdictions in the United States, as a qualified testing laboratory and a third-party quality assurance and inspection agency in accordance with IAS Report Nos. TL-214 and AA-665, respectively. The Department has been designated a "Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL)" by OSHA and has been accredited in all major state and local jurisdictions throughout the U.S., including the city of Los Angeles, Miami-Dade County, and the city of New York. The Department has been accepted by the U.S. Coast Guard to provide testing and follow-up programs in support of Type Approval per the IMO FTP Code. Internationally, the Department is recognized by The Standards Council of Canada, Lloyd's Register of Shipping, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), and the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).

The SwRI Department of Fire Technology is one of the world's largest organizations devoted to fire research and testing.


This flyer was originally published in January 1997. For more information about energetic materials hazards, contact Alexandra Joyce, Phone (210) 522-6423, Fax (210) 522-3377, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510.

Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Brochures separate.gif (834 bytes) SwRI Brochures
SwRI Publications separate.gif (834 bytes) SwRI Technical Divisions separate.gif (834 bytes) SwRI Home