The US -Army have taken a massive technological dive to save our environment, Current ammunition presents an environmental hazard due to the introduction of lead into the environment. Environmental effort to eliminate lead from ammunition is increasing in scope beyond shotgun shells.
So the Department of Defense (DoD) decided to do something about it, and is requesting environmentally friendly ammunition for use during training exercises.
The request was made via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Specifically, the DoD wants “biodegradable training ammunition loaded with specialized seeds to grow environmentally beneficial plants that eliminate ammunition debris and contaminants.”
The ammunition the DoD wants to replace with biodegradable alternatives includes “low velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds.” There’s also cartridge cases and sabot petals, which can either lay on the ground or end up buried beneath it.
Sourcing the seeds for use in this new ammunition won’t be a problem as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) already bioengineered them so as not to germinate for several months, allowing time for the materials containing them to sufficiently biodegrade. The seeds can then take up any remaining contaminants as they grow, further reducing harm to the environment.
As for what materials could be used to form the ammunition, the DoD points to materials used for manufacturing water bottles, plastic containers and other composite plastics already on the market today.
Any contractor attempting to produce these bullets for the DoD will need to progress through a three phase SBIR process. Phase one involves demonstrating a production process for the biodegradable materials for 40mm-120mm training rounds. Phase two involves proving the fabrication process and passing government ballistic tests. Finally, phase three will involve working with ammunition contractors to turn the tech into a supply of training ammunition.
If successful, the use of biodegradable ammunition will lead to less ground contamination while at the same time ensuring anywhere training exercises are carried out will be left rich in plant life.
BIO-Degradable Bullets Project Phases
Foster-Miller proposes to demonstrate the current 7.62mm M80 cartridge lead core FMJ projectile can be replaced by a non-toxic, injection molded core that is a combination of heavy metals and a biodegradable polymer.
After exposure to the environment, the biodegradable polymer will break down leaving a residue of non-toxic metal powder that can oxidize and decompose. A low cost molding process will be used to injection mold the core into the metal jacket of the 7.62mm projectile. In Phase I, we will develop biopolymer metal combinations, establish injection molding parameters, injection mold approximately 50 non-toxic, environmentally degradable projectile and prepare a final report which includes a scale-up plan for commercialization of the technology.
In Phase II, will refine the process and produce quantities of projectiles for ballistic testing and evaluation. Our commercialization effort will begin in Phase I, with design input from a curren cartridge manufacturing company and in Phase II, transition the technology to the cartridge manufacture for production. By combining Foster-Miller’s biodegradable polymer expertise with our teaming partners production capabilities/knowledge, we will readily succeed in producing environmentally safe ammunition that can be used by the military and commercial sectors.