A cartridge primer which utilizes an explosive that can be designed to become inactive in a predetermined period of time: a limited-life primer. The explosive or combustible material of the primer is an inorganic reactive multilayer (RML). The reaction products of the RML are sub-micron grains of non-corrosive inorganic compounds that would have no harmful effects on firearms or cartridge cases. Unlike use of primers containing lead components, primers utilizing RML's would not present a hazard to the environment. The sensitivity of an RML is determined by the physical structure and the stored interfacial energy. The sensitivity lowers with time due to a decrease in interfacial energy resulting from interdiffusion of the elemental layers. Time-dependent interdiffusion is predictable, thereby enabling the functional lifetime of an RML primer to be predetermined by the initial thickness and materials selection of the reacting layers.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.