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Relationship of surface changes to metal leaching from tungsten composite shot exposed to three different soil types

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.02.035
  • Tungsten Composite Ammunition
  • Leaching Potential
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy
  • Soil Type
  • Soil Lysimeter


Abstract Physical changes that occur on the surface of fired shots due to firing and impact with soil may increase the dissolution of muniton metals. Increased metal dissolution could potentially increase metal transport and leaching, affecting metal concentrations in surface and groundwater. This research describes the relationship between the surface changes on fired tungsten–nickel–iron (94% W:2% Ni:4% Fe) composite shots and metals leaching from those shots. Tungsten composite shot was fired into, and aged in, three soil types (Silty Sand, Sandy Clay, and Silt) in mesoscale rainfall lysimeters to simulate live-fire conditions and subsequent interactions between the metals of the composite and soil. Leachate, runoff, and soil samples were collected from the lysimeters and analyzed for metal content. The shots were analyzed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to evaluate surface changes. SEM results indicated that a soil’s particle size distribution initially affected the amount of metal that was sheared from the surface of the fired W-composite shots. Shearing was greatest in soils with larger soil particles (sand and gravel); shearing was least in soils composed of small soil particles (fines). Increased metallic shearing from the shot’s surface was associated with increased W dissolution, compared to controls, following a simulated 1 year soil aging.

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