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explosive


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A compound or mixture that, when ignited or detonated, undergoes a rapid violent chemical reaction that produces large amounts of gas and heat, accompanied by light, sound and a high-pressure shock wave. Low explosives burn comparatively slowly when ignited, and are employed as propellants in firearms and guns; they are also used in blasting. Examples include gunpowder and various smokeless propellants, such as cordite. High explosives decompose very rapidly to produce an uncontrollable blast. Examples of this type include dynamite, nitroglycerine, and trinitrotoluene (TNT); they are exploded using a detonator. Other high-power explosives include pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and ammonium nitride/fuel oil mixture (ANFO). Cyclonite (RDX) is a military high explosive; mixed with oils and waxes, it forms a plastic explosive (such as Semtex). See also Chronology.

900–1000

Gunpowder developed in China.

1242

English monk Roger Bacon (1220–92) describes the preparation of gunpowder.

c.1250

German alchemist Berthold Schwarz claims to have reinvented gunpowder.

1771

French chemist Pierre Woulfe discovers picric acid (originally used as a yellow dye).

1807

Scottish cleric Alexander Forsyth (1767–1843) discovers mercury fulminate.

1833

French chemist Henri Braconnot (1781–1855) nitrates starch, making a highly flammable compound (crude nitrocellulose).

1838

French chemist Théophile Pelouze (1807–67) nitrates paper, making crude nitrocellulose.

1845

German chemist Christian Schönbein (1799–1868) nitrates cotton, making nitrocellulose.

1846

Italian chemist Ascania Sobrero (1812–88) discovers nitroglycerine.

1863

Swedish chemist J. Wilbrand discovers trinitrotoluene (TNT). Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel (1833–96) invents a detonating cap based on mercury fulminate.

1867

Alfred Nobel invents dynamite by mixing nitroglycerine and kieselguhr.

1871

German chemist Hermann Sprengel shows that picric acid can be used as an explosive.

1875

Alfred Nobel invents blasting gelatin (nitroglycerine mixed with nitrocellulose).

1885

French chemist Eugène Turpin discovers ammonium picrate (Mélinite).

1888

Alfred Nobel invents a propellant from nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose (Ballistite).

1889

British scientists Frederick Abel (1826–1902) and James Dewar invent a propellant (Cordite) similar to Ballistite.

1891

German chemist Bernhard Tollens (1841–1918) discovers pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN).

1899

Henning discovers cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX or cyclonite).

1905

US army officer B. W. Dunn (1860–1936) invents ammonium picrate explosive (Dunnite).

1915

British scientists invent amatol (TNT+ammonium nitrate).

1955

US scientists develop ammonium nitrate-fuel oil mixtures (ANFO) as industrial explosives.

Subjects: Chemistry.


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