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Development of a Lean Process to the Lead-Free Primary Explosive DBX-1

David D. Ford, Shannon Lenahan, Matthew Jörgensen, Pascal Dubé, Mark Delude, Paul E. Concannon, Stephen R. Anderson, Karl D. Oyler, Gartung Cheng, Neha Mehta, and Jerry Salan, Development of a Lean Process to the Lead-Free Primary Explosive DBX-1, Organic Process Research & Development, 2015, 19 (6), 673-680.


Copper(I) 5-nitrotetrazolate (DBX-1) has emerged in recent years as a primary explosive that could serve as a replacement for lead azide (LA), a widely used explosive that has fallen out of favor due to its toxicity and chemical compatibility issues. While there is a significant amount of interest in this material, the development of DBX-1 has been hampered by the tedious and poorly understood chemical process for its preparation. To consistently produce DBX-1, two explosive intermediates must be isolated, and one of them requires purification. In this article, we present an improved process for the synthesis of DBX-1. In this process, neither of these intermediates needs to be handled by an operator, and the purification step is no longer necessary. It would be practical to perform the entire process under remote control, a necessity for energetic material manufacturing. We discuss the implications of our findings for the development of a robust process for the reproducible production of high-quality DBX-1.

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