Invention Library

Carbonaceous Materials for Facilitating Hydrolysis of Munitions

Background and Unmet Need

Legacy and insensitive high explosives (IHEs), such as 2,4-dinitroanisole (DNAN) and 2-methyl-1,3,5-trinitrobenzene (TN)T, are commonly found in soil at Department of Defense (DoD) testing and training ranges. These ranges maintain very high concentrations of DNAN, which poses a substantial safety concern for personnel as DNAN has been found to possess significant dermal absorption properties.[1] These compounds are also highly water-soluble and can easily migrate from the soil into ground and surface water. This poses a direct threat to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, as DNAN is known to be toxic to aquatic organisms, fishes, earthworms, and mammals.[2]  As a result, a dynamic pollution risk exists at munitions testing sites that pose an immediate exposure risk to personnel and the health of surrounding ecosystems.

Further, the formation of phenolic products that result from hydrolysis of IHEs raises additional concerns due to their higher toxicity than parent compounds. Therefore, there is a pressing need to maximize the sorption of legacy explosives and IHEs to reduce personnel exposure and minimize their transport from DoD sites into the surrounding environment.

While munition contamination exists worldwide, in the US alone roughly 1,700 Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) remain contaminated with hazardous substances or military munitions. Cost of remediation has been estimated to be $11.9 billion and the Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP) makes up 73% of the environmental liabilities within the FUDS program.[3] As a result, there is strong demand for remediation products that provide both an effective and economical solution.

The novel modified carbon remediation technology developed by Dr. Xu stands to provide both an effective and economic in-situ solution for the complex needs of munition remediation.


Dr. Xu has developed a novel carbonaceous compound that provides an in-situ remediation solution for IHEs and other legacy explosives. Although carbon amendments have been widely used for soil and sediment cleanup, this invention will result in carbon products that can serve as deployable reactive adsorbents for in situ treatment.

Unlike traditional carbon amendments, DNAN and / or TNT degradation on carbon surfaces will free up adsorption sites, allowing the tailored carbon to sequester DNAN continuously. This functionality will significantly reduce the cost of materials replacement and retreatment. Further, this technology does not require high pH conditions compared to current state-of-the art methods such as alkaline hydrolysis. As a result, this technology is ideally positioned to serve the munition response market across multiple global governments.

Unique Attributes

  • In-situ remediation solution for legacy and insensitive high explosives.
  • Reduced cost of remediation. One soil treatment will maintain remediation activity for at least ten cycles.
  • Highly effective and rapid IHE destruction up to 98%.
  • Greater absorption compared to unmodified activated carbon and biochars.


In-situ remediation of legacy and insensitive high explosives, including DNAN and TNT.