Explosives represent a readily transported, single-use energy source that can drive materials at a very high local power density. Effects of generated forces may be contained or may act upon a target at a distance. Specific energy release from detonating explosives is, to first order, independent of the size or the confinement of a charge. This enables engineering analysis for design or effects estimation over orders of magnitude in scale. Thus miniaturization of devices or applications is possible down to a scale that corresponds to the minimum charge size that is capable of supporting detonation, and this scale can be smaller than 1 mm. This talk is directed toward those without prior training in or exposure to explosives, to open communication between developers of smart systems and practitioners of explosives. The explosives field is highly interdisciplinary, as is the field of smart systems. The talk describes basic processes of detonation operation and coupling to surroundings, and addresses limitations to the use of explosives for applications. Perhaps the major engineering challenges in miniaturized applications of explosives are emplacement of the explosive in the desired form at the desired location in an assembly, and provision for introduction of external power to bring about initiation of detonation at the desired location or locus within an explosive charge. Initiation sources may be electrical, mechanical or laser-based. Explosive component families that are commercially available and that are innovative and still under development are described.

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