Three Common High Explosives and Their Properties
What are High Explosives?
High Explosives have powerful explosive properties, exploding at a supersonic level. They produce an explosion with a
velocity ranging from 3000 to 9000 meters per second. The chemicals
that make up high explosives decompose extremely quickly.
When initiated by a blast or shock, the material directly decomposes, and an explosion happens almost instantaneously by chemical reaction.
High explosives are categorized into two types:
Primary and secondary explosives.
Primary explosives are generally heat-sensitive, and can react quickly and devastatingly to
static electricity. For some primary explosives, almost any kind of impact no matter how slight, or
even friction can set them off. In extreme cases, some unstable primary explosives like nitroglycerine go as far as being untouchable due to their sensitivity.
Secondary explosives are less reactive to shock and friction than primary explosives, which make them less dangerous and easier to handle.. They are paired with primary explosives, for ignition when utilized.
Done in this manner, the explosion can be calculated and controlled to avoid mishap.
These practical explosives are used in mining sites, the military and in demolition applications, to name a few.
Diagram of a Dynamite
Types of High Explosives
This type of explosive material made of sawdust or diatomaceous earth as an absorbent and nitroglycerin as the explosive agent. It commonly sold in the shape of sticks, and is used with a line of fuse, with a primary explosive at the end acting as its charge, called a 'blasting cap'.
History, Uses, and Properties
was invented by the chemist Alfred Nobel in Germany. The product,
called 'Nobel's Blasting Powder' was patented in both England and Sweden
Since its invention, dynamite has been employed in mining, construction, and demolition. It quickly gave rise to the faster development of industry and easier labor, especially in constructing railways and clearing mine-shafts.
Dynamite was also used in warfare. Being classified as a high explosive,
used prior to the First World was as a highly effective and lethal
Nobel became notorious for his invention of dynamite. It was once said that Nobel would go down in history as a peddler of death for the many lives that were lost either accidentally, or during times of civil strife, from the use of dynamite.
The properties of dynamite are primarily three parts: Nitroglycerin, which acts as its explosive agent, an absorbent, mostly one part of diatomaceous earth, and a small amount of sodium carbonate.
Older kinds of dynamite incorporated sawdust as an absorbent. Mixing the nitroglycerin with absorbents made if safer to transport, since it greatly reduced the shock sensitivity. Older types dynamite have a tendency to 'sweat' overtime, meaning that nitroglycerin mixed with the absorbent starts to leak out of and crystallize around the wrapper. This makes the dynamite highly dangerous.
Story of Dynamite
most commonly shortened to TNT, is a solid, yellow-colored chemical compound. It
is commonly used as a reagent in chemical synthesis and as an explosive
material. Most often confused as being similar to dynamite, TNT is a chemical
compound, while dynamite is a mixture of nitroglycerin and an absorbent agent
such as sawdust.
History, Uses, and Properties
TNT was invented by the German chemist Joseph Wilbrand in 1863. The original
purpose of TNT was its use as a yellow dye. The use of TNT as an explosive came
many years later, mainly due to the difficulty of detonating TNT, and because
it was less powerful than other explosives at that time.
TNT is a comparatively insensitive explosive which enabled it to be poured while
liquid form into shell cases. The earliest use of TNT as a military
was during 1902, when the Germans used it as a filling for artillery
These TNT-filled armor-piercing shells would explode after penetrating
armor of the target.
TNT is still widely used by the military and by various construction companies worldwide. It is valued for general use because of its safety and stability. TNT is insensitive to shock as well as friction, which allows it to be transported and used without much risk for accidental detonation.
TNT is also water-resistant, which allows it to be used in wet environments. Radford Army Ammunition Plant currently produces the majority of TNT used by the United States Military. TNT is also employed for use in demolitions and clearing away large debris in building foundations.
The production of TNT is achieved in three steps. It begins with the
toluene, which is mixed with sulfuric and nitric acid to produce
mono-nitrotoluene or MNT. The MNT is then separated and re-nitrated to
dinitrotoluene or DNT.
Finally, the DNT is nitrated into trinitrotoluene or TNT by the use of an anhydrous mix of nitric acid and oleum. As a finishing touch, the TNT is then stabilized by treating it with an aqueous sodium sulfate solution. This removes the less stable isomers of TNT, making it more stable for use.
TNT is a toxic chemical, and skin contact has been known to cause skin
irritation, making the skin appear yellow-orange in color. Prolonged
to TNT can impair normal liver function and cause anemia, spleen
as well as affect male fertility.
Breathing TNT is greatly harmful to the immune system. It is known as a carcinogen, and oral intake of TNT produces urine which is red in color, due to its chemical breakdown in the body.
A water gel explosive, also known as
Trenchrite, Seismogel, or Seismopac, is an alternative to traditional dynamite.
It's lower toxicity and safer manufacture has made it the optimum replacement
for dynamite. Trovex has been adopted for widespread use, with as much as 80%
international oil companies using it for seismic exploration.
History, Uses, and Properties
E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Inc. first developed Tovex in the 1960s The first attempts at making Torvex was by mixing pelletized TNT with aqueous gels. It was commercially successful, but proved to have problems mainly with oxygen balance and the cost of production. In the late 1973, the formula was perfected by replacing TNT with methyl ammonium nitrate, thus allowing Tovex to replace nitroglycerin-based dynamites.
The most common uses of Tovex is in construction, mining, tunneling, avalanche rescue, and seismic exploration. Tovex is the only explosive developed that has not been used as an instrument of warfare.
The chemical properties of Tovex is a 50/50 aqueous solution of ammonium nitrate and methylammonium nitrate. Sensitized fluids and other ingredients such as sodium nitrate, aluminum, and coal are added to make some of the product grades cap sensitive. Thickening agents are sometimes used to enhance water resistance by acting as crystal modifiers.
Conclusion and Summary
High explosives are most commonly employed in war. High explosive weapons are highly destructive instruments which strike fear in the minds of many people, especially over the past few decades.
But high explosives are not themselves, instruments of evil.
When used for constructive purposes, high explosives benefit civilizations and the world at large by allowing faster methods of building tunnels, buildings, and roads. There are hundreds of beneficial applications for high explosives -it is up to governments and societies as a whole to ensure they are used peacefully and responsibily.