Leaching of propellant compounds from munition residues may be controlled by sorption to nitrocellulose

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2135-2141
Journal / PublicationScience of the Total Environment
Online published26 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


Sustainable management of military ranges requires effective assessment of surface mobility and leaching potential of propellant compounds (PCs). Previous studies have focused mostly on PCs’ dissolution from fired residues and their sorption to soil components. This work investigated the potential role of nitrocellulose, a major component in propellants, in the binding of PCs to propellant residues. Sorption isotherms of military grade nitrocellulose for dissolved nitroglycerine (NG) or 2,4-dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT) was measured in batch experiments and were determined to be SNG = 102.39(± 0.05)CNG 0.916(± 0.032) and S2,4-DNT = 103.08(± 0.01)C2,4-DNT 0.668(± 0.010) (S and C in mg/kgnitrocellulose and mg/Lwat, respectively). Solid-to-water partitioning for NG and 2,4-DNT was 100 times greater in propellant residues than in typical military ranges soils. Since nitrocellulose can sorb NG and 2,4-DNT up to 23 and 5% of its mass, respectively, it can slow down, through retarded diffusion, the leaching of PCs from fired residues over the typical composition ranges of common propellants. The slow leaching of PCs from propellant grains in column studies can be better interpreted by considering their sorptive interaction with nitrocellulose in addition to dissolution kinetics. With nitrocellulose as the carrying matrix, residue-bound PCs may migrate farther and persist longer in subsurface environment.

Research Area(s)

  • Energetic materials (EMs), Munition compounds (MCs), Nitrocellulose, Propellant compounds (PCs), Retarded diffusion, Sorption

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