2022 Economic Impact Award: Adam Michalchuk, Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, Germany
04 Jul 2022



Awarded for his work on the in-silico design of safer energetic materials


The economic impact award recognises research into the effect of impact in the other sense of the word. Energetic materials that release energy when a force is applied are widely used across a range of industries from defence and demolition to fireworks and Christmas crackers. However, some of the materials that are commonly used are toxic, with others causing environmental damage, and so there is a drive to find alternatives that are less damaging.

Despite these materials having been used for many years, there is little understanding of what causes mechanical impact to prompt the chemical reaction behind an explosion. Knowing what is happening on the atomic scale is key to developing new, more environmentally-friendly energetic materials.

Dr Adam Michalchuk and his collaborators aim to address this issue using computers. He has developed a computational model, based on vibrational spectra, that predicts the properties of energetic materials. To ensure their model was giving realistic answers, they needed to benchmark it against experimental results.

After attending the ISIS neutron training course, Dr Michalchuk realised that neutrons could provide critical information that cannot be gathered using laboratory-based techniques. Using the results of inelastic neutron scattering to validate their model, they have been able to show that their method is able to accurately describe the properties of a diverse range of energetic materials.

As well as using spectroscopy, he has expanded his work to using neutron diffraction on the PEARL beamline to study the crystal structure of these materials, and how they behave under high pressures. This will help him understand how mechanical force influences the activity.

The next stage of his research will see Dr Michalchuk collaborate with experimental chemists to design the energetic materials of the future. In addition, the understanding of how mechanical force can drive a chemical reaction is not only useful for this area of chemistry but can also be applied more widely.

Related publications:

Michalchuk et al. (2019) J Mater. Chem. A 7, 19539

Michalchuk et al (2018) J. Phys. Chem. C, 122, 19395

Michalchuk et al (2021) J. Chem. Phys., 154, 064105

Michalchuk et al (2021) Chem. Commun. 57, 11213

Michalchuk et al (2018) PhysChemChemPhys, 20, 29061

Contact: de Laune, Rosie (STFC,RAL,ISIS)