This project aims to contribute to the Department of Defense needs for novel pyrotechnic formulations and engineering solutions that produce multi-color signals, minimal smoke, with highly efficient combustion. The tunability of the color as well as a multispectral output are part of this study with the following overall objectives:

  • proof of concept of an item that can produce a multispectral (multicolor) signal or a selectable wavelength signal with novel production technologies
  • introduction of novel sustainable pyrotechnic color compositions
  • quantification of reduced environmental and human health impacts of novel color compositions, products and associated novel production technology, throughout the production and forecasted munition lifecycle

Technical Approach

The project is structured in three distinct parts; the first is directed to the (additive) manufacture of an item that generates a multispectral signal flare, the second to color compositions, and the third  to the sustainability analysis for the production of the compositions as well as the product.

The multispectral signal flare or selectable wavelength signal flare will be studied keeping applications as handheld signals, submarine location signals and signal flare projectiles in mind, setting up the requirements and going to the drawing board to come up with conceptual designs. A large number of concepts will be assessed and a down-selection of three concepts will be made for the experimental phase, which includes additive manufacturing. After evaluation of the conceptual design tests, a single concept will be chosen for production and proof of concept of multispectral output generation and feasibility of additive manufacturing as a novel production technology.

The color compositions for the signal flare will be based on a selection from a range of perchlorate free low smoke color compositions and a range of chlorate free low smoke color compositions developed at TNO. The selected compositions will be modified by incorporation of a stabilizer for long term stability. Performance of the compositions in terms of burn rate, chromaticity coordinates, luminosity and smoke generation as well as stability will be measured, and a direct comparison to military signals will be made in outdoor performance studies.

The sustainability analysis is part of this research effort to ensure timely guidance. The degree of detail increases up to a full Life Cycle Assessment for the proof of concept item. The analysis will focus on the distinct contributions of novel production technologies and of environmentally benign color compositions as well as the advantages with respect to current production. 


The expected benefits are in the progress of additive manufacturing technologies in the field of energetic materials, novel pyrotechnic applications and a more sustainable production of multispectral signal flares in near future. The benefits to the scientific community are the relation between 1) reduced metal content in color compositions, 2) reduced smoke generation, and 3) observed brightness of the signal flare by a distant observer. Furthermore, information will be obtained on the stabilization of nitrocellulose containing pyrotechnics, thereby increasing the applicability of nitrocellulose as an energetic ingredient outside the realm of propellants.