On 27 September 2017 RSC Belgium members and friends were treated to a demo lecture at the British School of Brussels (BSB) on Energetic Chemistry from Dr Matt Andrews of NATO. This lecture had been rearranged from earlier in the year and featured some of the more ‘vigorous’ aspects of chemical reactions. It was also the evening when we presented prizes to the winners of our Annual Chemistry Challenge competition for school students (see separate article).
Dr Matt Andrews' lecture was entitled: “Safety of Energetic Materials: Preventing Unexpected Bangs”. Dr Matthew Andrews is a Technical Specialist Officer (TSO) at the Munition Safety Information Analysis Centre (MSIAC) based at NATO with a specialism in Energetic Materials.
With over 16 years experience in the field of energetic materials Matt (pictured above) was well placed to take the audience in the BSB's Brel Theatre through numerous topics relating to energetic materials ranging from the fundamentals of the chemistry to the Forensic Investigation of Explosives.
His talk provided a brief history of explosives, the ever present safety risks, and what happens when accidents do occur. To comprehend the risk that energetic materials present, he emphasised the need to understand the different mechanisms that can result in the uncontrolled release of stored chemical energy, contained within all explosives. An understanding of these mechanisms allows scientists to design safer explosives, to better test and screen materials, and to define processes and procedures to manage the risk to acceptable levels. The talk went on to discuss some of these test methods and show how it is possible to handle, transport and use these materials safely.