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What does AWE do?

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) is a government-funded organisation, responsible for supporting the UK's nuclear deterrent. AWE plays a crucial role in the defence of the UK: manufacturing, maintaining and developing warheads for the Royal Navy's Trident system. It also uses its unique expertise and skills to support nuclear threat reduction, maintaining a key role in supporting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, counterterrorism and the country's national security, as well as advising the government on matters related to nuclear terrorism. AWE is a centre of scientific and technical excellence, with world-leading facilities and expertise.  

What will you see in the presentation?

Our presentation focuses of energetics (explosives). Students will learn about the different types of explosions and explosives, and the theory behind confinement, reaction rates, shockwaves and energetic lenses, as well as gaining an insight into the applications of explosives and explosive lenses at AWE and beyond. 

What physics is used?

Many different principles of physics come together in the research, development and use of energetics. In this presentation, the basic concepts of energy and power, the ideal gas law, waves and lenses, are expanded upon and applied to the topic of explosives. 

Why is it useful?

AWE uses many different types of explosives for different purposes, ranging from propellants for mechanical work to the implosion of fissile material. These each have their own requirements, and it is important to understand the theory behind energetics, waves and lenses, to tailor the explosives for their desired purpose. It is also essential to consider safety when working with and storing explosives, to limit the chance of any accidents. The physics behind energetic materials must be understood to identify potential risks and, working alongside other relevant scientific disciplines, minimise the hazards.