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Magic bullets? Why the US Army is setting its sights on biodegradable ammunition.

Posted on Feb 15, 2017 10:19:00 PM

 Biodegradable bullets.pngThe US Navy have invested in trialling bio-fuels to power its ships, the Air Force are developing similar for its planes, and now the Army is getting in on the act and seeking proposals for biodegradable ammunition. Currently the US Army manufactures and consumes hundreds of thousands of training rounds for use in proving grounds and firing ranges in the United States and around the world. The projectiles, and in some circumstances the cartridge cases, once fired are either left on the surface or several feet underground. The components of the current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade. And some of these rounds might have the potential to corrode and pollute the soil and nearby water.  As a response the US Army are seeking to source naturally occurring biodegradable material to replace the current training round materials.

So why are the US Army seeking this changes? The stated objective according to the Department of Defense is to: “Develop biodegradable training ammunition loaded with specialized seeds to grow environmentally beneficial plants that eliminate ammunition debris and contaminants.”

The solution sought is for the development of naturally occurring biodegradable material to replace the current training round materials and help eliminate environmental hazards. These bio-composite bullets impregnated with seeds would replace the current training round components. And will survive the blast and searing velocities that a bullet requires.

The US Army Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) has demonstrated bioengineered seeds that can be embedded into the biodegradable composites and that will not germinate until they have been in the ground for several months. This effort will make use of seeds to grow environmentally friendly plants that remove soil contaminants and consume the biodegradable components developed under this project. Animals should be able to consume the plants without any ill effects. Read the full details of the solicitation here.

If successful, the plan is to prove out the technology and replace current training round components with these biodegradable parts. The biodegradable materials identified can then be utilized by private industry to manufacture biodegradable water bottles, plastic containers, or any other composite or plastic product(s) on the market today.

Last year the Canadian Army developed ammunition that wouldn’t poison drinking water.  The project was called RIGHTTRAC — an acronym for Revolutionary Insensitive, Green and Healthier Training Technology with Reduced Adverse Contamination — and it was undertaken by Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC). Whilst the Norwegian Armed Forces uses Nammo as the main supplier of lead-free small arms ammunition.

So if you have a technology that can green at least a little of the business of war, then keep an eye on the US Department of Defense - although this particular solication is closed, its clearly an area of focus for the future. 

For more bio-based innovations like this...

Mazda exhibits its first car made with a bioplastic exterior.

NEC develop bio-plastic that has the look and colour of traditional Japanese lacquerware.

Testing underway for Evolva’s collaboration with US Navy on plant-based composites.

Tequila drinkers to help Ford drivers get a little more bio-based.

Introducing the world’s first and very gnarly bio-based snowboard. 


Topics: BBWNBrands, Bio-Based, Plastics and Packaging

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About the Author

Luke Upton
Luke Upton
Luke is the editor and co-founder of Bio-Based World has edited this site since its launch and previously worked for b2b media companies across industries including energy, advertising and sport. His more