Pentagon's 'Holy Grail': A Bomb You Can't Blow
Scientists test different types of ammonium nitrate fertilizer
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2013 2:06 PM CDT
In this photo taken on Aug 25, 2011, a Pakistani worker carries a sack of fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate in Multan, Pakistan.   (AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer)

(Newser) – Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is necessary in Afghanistan and Pakistan to keep people from starving—but it's also a primary ingredient in more than 60% of bombs made by the Taliban. To find a solution to the conundrum, Pentagon scientists are searching for what the Washington Post describes as a "Holy Grail": fertilizer that won't detonate. The Post follows lead scientist Bob Best, 61, as he experiments—unsuccessfully—with a supposedly less-explosive fertilizer.

Sandia National Laboratories announced earlier this year that it had discovered an additive that would lessen the blast power without hurting crop yields. Best made one bomb with traditional fertilizer (bombs like this kill with energy waves, not shrapnel) and one with the Sandia fertilizer, then blew them both up at his test range in Washington. Unfortunately, the Sandia mix didn't live up to the hype: The bomb blew a hole straight through the steel plate on which it had been placed. And, though the impact was lessened a bit, "we still have a guy in a body bag," Best says.

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Showing 3 of 12 comments
Jun 20, 2013 5:19 PM CDT
Couldn't cow and pig manure work as fertilizers? What did farmers do before ammonium nitrate?
Jun 19, 2013 9:52 PM CDT
Human urine works just as well as ammonium nitrate. If there is a will, and enough beer, there is a way.
Jun 19, 2013 6:31 AM CDT
This guy has the best job on the planet.