Modeling of combustion and ignition of solid-propellant ingredients

Merrill W. Beckstead, Karthik Puduppakkam, Piyush Thakre, Vigor Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

200 Citations (Scopus)


Techniques for modeling energetic-material combustion and ignition have evolved tremendously in the last two decades and have been successfully applied to various solid-propellant ingredients. There has been a paradigm shift in the predictive capability of solid-propellant combustion models as the field has advanced from a simple and global-kinetics approach to a detailed approach that employs elementary reaction mechanisms in the gas phase, and accommodates thermal decomposition and subsequent reactions in the condensed phase. The detailed models not only allow calculation of propellant burning-rate characteristics, such as pressure and temperature sensitivities, but also of the surface conditions and entire combustion-wave structure, including the spatial variations in temperature and species concentrations. This paper provides a comprehensive review of recent advances in the modeling and simulation of various solid-propellant ingredients over a wide range of ambient conditions. The specific materials of concern include nitramines (RDX, HMX), azides (GAP), nitrate esters (NG, BTTN, TMETN), ADN, and AP monopropellants, as well as homogeneous mixtures representing binary (RDX/GAP, HMX/GAP, and AP/HTPB) and ternary (RDX/GAP/BTTN) pseudo-propellants. Emphasis is placed on the steady-state combustion and laser-induced ignition of nitramines. The capabilities and deficiencies of existing approaches are addressed. In general, the detailed gas-phase reaction mechanisms developed so far represent the chemistry of monopropellants and associated mixtures consistently well, and help understand the intricate processes of solid-propellant combustion. The reaction mechanisms in the condensed phase, however, still pose an important challenge. Furthermore, the current knowledge of the initial decomposition of molecules emerging from the propellant surface is insufficient to render the models fully predictive. Modeling is thus not yet a predictive tool, but it is a useful guide. In the near future, it is likely that detailed combustion models can assist in the formulation of advanced solid propellants meeting various performance and emission requirements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-551
Number of pages55
JournalProgress in Energy and Combustion Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Dec

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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