Water-Wet Pelletized Nitrocellulose Dehydration

Period of Performance: 05/10/2001 - 11/06/2001


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Apogee Engineering, Inc.
6059 Mission Drive
West Bloomfield, MI 48324
Principal Investigator


Apogee Engineering Inc. proposes to R&D a unique process for dehydrating a slurry of 10% pelletized nitrocellulose (PNC) in water, ending with a final product of 60% PNC in a n-heptane slurry with a maximum of 0.1% water. The existing process involves drying the PNC to dryness in ovens and handling trays of material manually, then mixing it with very low flash point n-heptane. One can draw their own conclusions regarding the safety of this process. The Apogee goal is to use the best available technology so that the resulting process is: Operable and performs as required, Safe, Continuous, Energy and environmentally efficient, Minimal capital and operating cost and Composed of robust unit operations and equipment. Five options for processes have been proposed for evaluation and several others considered and rejected. The best process may be a combination of unit operations selected from among the five options. Membrane technology will probably be used. Principle investigator, David Lee Tanner,P.E. chemical engineer with over 45 years experience in diverse technologies, will establish the correct design basis for the process. A robust and superior process will be developed that will meet the needs of the Navy, other DOD components and the private sector.Benefits to the Navy, as a result of this research and development, will be the creation of a safer, automated and less labor intensive process for the dehydration of their pelletized nitrocellulose for use in composit cast modified double base explosives. The technology developed will also be of benefit to other DOD components. Apogee employees have conceived a unique processing step utilizing pervaporation membranes that may have utility in the pigment and dye industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the explosive and propellant industry in the private sector. This technology is anticipated to be patentable based on a percursory patent search. Successful development of this technology and obtaining patent rights would lead to a partnership with an established equipment manufacturing company that would be in a position to market this technology to an established customer base with an established marketing structure.