detonator is a small explosive device that is used for detonating high explosives. The synthesis of explosives helps produce new substances for research and development. Eack of the explosives has different characteristics.

TNT, PETN and RDX are explosives that are highly encountered by police. These are high-power military explosives that fall under the category of secondary high explosives that do not easily detonate by flame heat or friction. Therefore, knowledge of the synthesis and characteristics of these explosives helps law enforcement agencies protect and safeguard the citizens’ lives and property.

This article further discusses the synthesis and various characteristics of the explosives, namely TNT, PETN and RDX.

Characteristics of Tri-Nitro Toluene (TNT)

Tri-nitro-toluene is a chemical compound, which is the most widely used high explosive. It is pale yellow in color and insoluble in water. TNT is used in mixtures with other substances, which are as powerful as TNT. It is relatively insensitive to shock or friction. Some of the high explosives with TNT are given with their brand names:

  • Amatol: TNT+ Ammonium nitrate
  • Ammonal: TNT + Ammonium nitrate + Ammonium powder.
  • Cyclotol: TNT+ RDX
  • Pentolite: TNT+PETN
  • Tetrytol: TNT+Tetryl
  • Picratol: TNT + Ammonium Picrate

Synthesis of TNT: 

Tri-nitro-toluene is synthesized by nitrating toluene to mononitrotoluene. It is further nitrated to form dinitrotoluene and then finally into trinitrotoluene using a nitrating complex.

Toluene is mixed with nitric acid, also known as aqua fortis, and sulfuric acid and is skilled in a series of three reactors that are run at elevated temperatures. The third reaction may be a crude version of TNT since it contains some contaminants from all prior reactions.

These contaminants present are removed by washing the crude TNT with water first. This washed TNT is later mixed with a solution of sodium sulfite to remove additional contaminants. The TNT is then melted and skilled hot dryers to get rid of most of the water.

Characteristics of PETN

Penta-Erythritol-Tetranitrate is a high explosive. It is a white powder, very stable, insoluble and is more sensitive than TNT. It is used for preparing detonating fuse, which is a blasting accessory.

PETN and RDX in a 1:1 mixture form a high plastic explosive called Semtex. It is yellowish and was first manufactures in Czechoslovakia.

Synthesis of PETN

 C5H8N4O12 is the formula of PETN. It is prepared by reacting pentaerythritol (C5H12O4), alcohol traditionally utilized in paints and varnishes, with Nitric acid (HNO2). The reacting solution is chilled to precipitate the PETN, which is filtered out, washed, dried, and recrystallized to produce a colorless crystalline material that is generally stored and shipped as a mixture of water and alcohol.

Characteristics of RDX

RDX which stands for Royal Demolition Explosive is also known as Hexogen or Cyclonite. It is the most powerful military explosive. RDX is converted into a pliable plastic explosive by mixing with oils, waxes, and plasticizers. Such a composition is known as C4. C4 is an American military explosive used as a main charge.

Synthesis of RDX

Chemists classify DX as a hexahydro 1,3,5-triazine derivative. It is obtained by treating hexamine with white fuming Nitric acid, also known as Aqua Fortis.

This nitro lysis reaction also produces methylene dinitrate, ammonium nitrate, and water as by-products. Modern syntheses employ hexahydro triacyl triazine because it avoids the formation of HMX.

Categories: Ballistics


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