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EXPLOSIVES

A comprehensive overview of all aspects of explosive devices of all kinds. Explore the links to
learn more about this fascinating topic
History of Explosive
The first explosives were actually stumbled upon by Asian chemists. They discovered that
when mixed together, saltpeter and sulfur caused an explosion. The chemists took this
discovery and used it in the first fireworks. These were used for communication purposes.
Later on, the Asians created a very crude projectile weapon. The Arabs saw this, began to
make their own, and the use of explosives spread west.
Around the 13th century, a man by the name of Roger Bacon began to experiment with what
the Asians had discovered. Eventually he found the perfect mixture of saltpeter, sulfur, and
charcoal (a new ingredient) to create the first black powder. After Bacon came Berthold
Schwarts. Schwarts took Bacons black powder and used it to shoot a small pebble out of a
metal tube. Guns had been created. Later on, primitive and modern cannons would be
created. Black powder helped in cutting roads through mountains, and making tunnels, also.
About 500 years after Schwarts, a man named Ascano Sobrero began to mess with other
ways of mixing explosives chemicals. He discovered that when mixed, glycerin and nitric
acid exploded. In fact, he almost blew himself up! The new compound he had created was
nitroglycerine. This was more powerful than black powder and also more volatile.

In 1852, a major step was taken in the history of explosives. Alfred Nobel was experimenting
with nitroglycerine, trying to make it more stable. The result of his work was dynamite. He
found that if nitroglycerine and silica were mixed, a paste was formed that could be formed
into sticks. In 1867, dynamite was patented, along with nitroglycerine. Nobel became
famous for his discoveries, and used the money he made to create the Nobel Prize, given out
every year to those in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, and the promotion of peace.

Two key inventions that were important to explosives were the blasting cap and safety fuse.
These were both crucial in making blasting with dynamite safer and more efficient. Around
1831, a man named William Bickford created the first safety fuses. They consisted of a black
powder core, wrapped in a cloth of some type. Basically, certain lengths were put on the
dynamite, so explosions could be accurately timed. In 1865, Nobel created yet another key
part to dynamite blasting. He created the blasting cap. This was basically a small cap that
went on dynamite that either was electrical or chemical and caused an ignition that would
cause the dynamite to explode.

Bangalore torpedoes were small explosives used to clear booby traps and small obstacles like
barbed wire. They were named after a town in India. These effective weapons were used in
both world wars, especially in the Normandy invasion, and also in Vietnam by Northern
Vietnamese forces. Bangalore torpedoes consist of a nose cone, a body tube, and a base that
usually contained things like dynamite or nytroglycerine. Thermobaric weapons were also
used in both world wars and Vietnam. These were weapons that contained liquid, gas, or
powder explosives. The shell would explode scattering the explosives, which would spread
out and then ignite. The Russians were the first to use thermobarics in the 1960s. Many
countries such as Russia, as well as the United Nations have criticized these weapons of late,
as inhumane- weapons.
Explosive types and equipment
Dynamite: With the invention of nitroglycerin in 1865, Alfred Nobel was about to
embark on a worldwide empire of explosives. Nitroglycerin, a mixture of nitric acid and
glycerin, was so unstable that it could detonate at the touch of a feather, and thus was
unsafe for domestic use. Nobel set out to solve the problem, and in 1866, he discovered
that when dissolved in silicon, the nitro was far more stable and portable. This new
explosive could be melted at a relatively low temperature and poured into molds or
sticks. Dynamite quickly became the world standard with the later invention of the
blasting cap, an electrically controlled mini-explosive used for detonation. Dynamite was
and is still used for construction and demolition, and was even used in earlier warfare.

Low Explosives: According to a military classification, low explosives are combustible
materials that decompose rapidly, yet do not create an actual explosion. Also called
propellants, some examples are nitrocellulose, black powder, gasoline, and propane.
They are used for shooting bullets from guns, and for These materials burn extremely
fast, but due to their chemical makeup they cannot usually be classified as true
explosives. Yet sometimes under the right conditions, these may propagate a true
explosion, and depending on the atmospheric pressure, cause excessive damage.

Initiating Explosives: Under normal conditions, initiating explosives will not burn, but
they will detonate if ignited. Their strength and brisance are much lower, but they are
sufficient to detonate high explosives. Because of their sensitivity, they are used in
munitions for initiating and intensifying high-order explosions. Some examples of
initiating explosives are Mercury Fulminate, Lead Azide, Lead Styphnate, Tetracene, or
Diazodinitrophenol. When used with a blasting cap, these compounds can facilitate an
extremely effective and fast reaction.

Auxiliary Explosives: These explosives are more sensitive than high explosives, and are
used for initiators, primers, or detonators. They are utilized in blasting caps, and gel-type
igniters that are common in mining and construction. Some examples of auxiliary
explosives include Tetrytol, Pentaerythritoltetranitrate (PETN),
Trinitrophenylmethylnitramine (Tetryl) and Trinitrotoluene (TNT).

Bursting or (High) Explosives: When these compounds experience a considerable
shock, the molecules of the explosive break down and rearrange themselves within a few
millionths of a second. This decomposition causes the elements inside the explosives
to expand with a rapid speed, creating an enormous pressure cloud of gas and fire. Every
explosive has a specific detonation velocity, which is the speed at which the explosive
travels outward. High explosives have a much higher detonation velocity than low
explosives, and must be detonated using a similar high explosive or an initiating
explosive and primer. Compositions of bursting explosives are utilized for maximum
stability and power, and are often found in conventional military weapons. These
weapons create an intense shock wave, which travels in a large radius and causes
pressure and heat damage to buildings and bystanders.

Plastic Explosives: Plastic explosives, or plastique, are composite mixtures of high
explosives and a colloid gel, such as a Nitroglycerine putty. Plastic explosives are
extremely useful for both demolition and military uses due to the easy mobility and
power of these compounds. The bricks may be molded into countless shapes, and
depending on the setup, shaped charges may be created for precise demolition. Army
troops carry C4 as a standard ordnance weapon on all excursions, and other plastic
bombs are being implemented every day. C4 is the most powerful type of plastic
explosives, and is made

Missiles: These are the most well known form of destructive military implement, and
they consist of a body tube with a propellant and explosive. There are several different
kinds of missiles, such as cruise missiles, air to ground, air to air, ground to air, torpedos,
and ICBMs. These projectiles all utilize some sort of propellant system, using rocket fuel
and guidance systems to get them to their target. Cruise missiles are launched from
either a submarine, a ship, or a ground operations base. These can travel over 5,000
miles and can reach remote targets in hot zones.

Blasting Caps: Invented by Alfred Nobel, these devices revolutionized demolition and
blasting techniques. They employ electricity to detonate a sensitive explosive, such as
mercury fulminate.

Brisance: The speed with which an explosive develops its maximum pressure is a
measure of the quality known as brisance. A brisant explosive is one in which the
maximum pressure is attained so rapidly that the effect is to shatter any material in
contact with it and all surrounding material. High Explosives usually have exceptionally
high brisance, with the exception of shaped charges, which direct all of their force in one
direction to create a predetermined pattern.
Uses of Explosives
Blasting
Explosives are commonly used for blasting. This is the process of reducing a solid
body, such as rock, to fragments. There are five steps in blasting the first step is drilling
holes in a converging pattern, second they place a charge and detonator in each hole, the
third step is tamping and stemming the charge to compact the explosive, and filling the
remainder of the hole with clay or rock, the fourth step is igniting or detonating the
charge, and the fifth and final step is clearing away the broken material. The purpose for
lasting like this is used for the construction of mines, tunnels and also making trenches
during wartime. The usual explosive used for blasting is dynamite, fired by electric
blasting caps, but ANFO is also commonly used.

Weapons
When you think of explosive you imedietyly think of the millitary. Explosives are
extensively used in the military.
Here is a list of explosives and propellants used in the military:
Military Explosives: TNT, RDX, HMX, PETN, TATB, PYX, Various composite
explosives, various heat resistant explosives.
Military Propellants: Small arm gun propellants, Major caliber gun propellants, various
rocket propellants.

Entertainment
It is quite easy to forget one of the earliest uses of explosives: Fireworks! Fireworks
have been around since the ancient Asians invented them. They are now very
commonly used and it is now possible to produce hundreds of effects. The colors are
generated by adding different inorganic salts to the exploding mixture and explosives
are used to propel and obviously explode the rocket.

Extinguishing fires
When you think of explosives you would never think they are used to put out fires.
When oil fields in Kuwait caught fire it was almost impossible to put it out with normal
equipment. Explosives were then used at the center of the fire. When the explosives
went off they quickly sucked out all the oxygen in the air. This process is very
dangerous because the oil could reignite at anytime.

Rescuing
Small explosives are used in saving people. Rescue workers place small charges in
certain locations to help breakaway rocks, ice, etc.

Physics and Chemistry of an Explosion

All explosions involve a substance decomposing or burning very quickly. This, in turn,
creates massive amounts of heat and gasses in a very short time period. The basic layout of an
explosive device is usually a casing, a detonator of some type, and a combustible material.
The device either undergoes combustion or decomposition. The heat/shock of the detonator is
what kick starts the whole process. After the detonation, gasses expand due to a rapid
temperature increase, and a chain reaction follows. The gasses are under high pressure,
causing them to expand rapidly. The heat in the reaction causes the gas particles to speed up,
creating even more pressure. Depending on the explosive, if the gas expands faster than the
speed of sound, a shockwave is created. The pressure created by the gasses is what causes
pieces of the bomb (a.k.a shrapnel) to be thrown or propelled everywhere at very high speeds.

The three categories that explosives fall under are high explosives, primary explosives and
low explosives. With low explosives, like gunpowder, the reaction occurs rather slowly. The
expanding gasses are used to propel, rather than destroy. With high explosives, the expanding
gasses are used to destroy. The pressure is so high that a shockwave is created. The
shockwave is what contributes to the demolition power of something like TNT. Primary
explosives are designed to explode, but not burn. These are usually things like blasting caps
or fuses. They are used to get an explosive going and start the explosion. Shockwaves are a
key element to explosions. Basically, a shockwave is a wave formed of a zone of extremely
high pressure within a fluid, including the atmosphere that travels at a speed faster than the
speed of sound. Moving from the point of the explosion or disturbance, a shockwave carries
energy and can have severe damaging effects on the solid objects it bounces off of.

Combustion, another key part of explosions, is defined as a rapid chemical reaction that
happens between two chemical substances that gives off heat and light. One of the most
common forms of combustion is burning.

Chart on Common explosives
Name Formula MW (g/mol) DEf (kJ/mol)
Carbon monoxide (product) CO(g) 28 -111.8
Carbon dioxide (product) CO2(g) 44 -393.5
Water (product) H2O(g) 18 -240.6
Nitroglycerin C3H5N3O9 227 -333.66
RDX C3H6N6O6 222 +83.82
HMX C4H8N8O8 296 +104.77
PETN C5H8N4O12 316 -514.63
TNT C7H5N3O6 227 -54.39
TETRYL C7H5N5O8 287 +38.91
Chemical Equation to an Explosion
Priority Reaction (to completion)
1 Metal +O --->Metallic Oxide (e.g.: ZnO or PbO)
2 2 C +O --->CO (g)
3 2H +O --->H2O(g)
4 CO +O --->CO2(g) (The CO comes from reaction (2))
5 Excess O, H & N O2, N2, & H2(g)
Reaction of combustion
RDMX: C3H6N6O6
3C+3O - 3CO
6H+3O- 3H20
6N- 3N2
C3H6N6O6- 3CO+3H2O+3N2
Explosion Disasters
Dec. 12, 1998 (Michigan)
In this incident, an explosion occurred at the Independence Professional Fireworks
factory in Michigan. The cause of the explosion is not known, but the damage was severe.
It was estimated that the blast was heard 20 miles away, and debris was sent flying,
landing hundreds of yards away. Seven were killed in the blast.

October 26, 1966 (USS Oriskany)
The disaster here involved flares and rocket warheads. Two sailors on the USS Oriskany
were loading aircraft flares onto the ship when one of them was dropped. The safety was
turned off because of the drop and was never reset. The flare was later picked up by an
unsuspecting sailor and tossed into a locker containing rocket warheads! The flare went
off and detonated the warheads. The worst was yet to come, though. The fire caused by
the exploding warhead got to a liquid oxygen tank and caused an even bigger explosion.
Two helicopters and four planes were damaged severely, and 44 were killed and 156
injured.

1917 (Nova Scotia)
One of the most tragic of all disasters was one involving a ship transporting ammunition
to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ship containing the ammo collided with another ship while
going into port and set off a chain of events. The collision caused a fire to start on the
ship, which, after time, began setting off the ammunition. The crew immediately jumped
ship when the fires started. The explosion didnt happen right away, though. The ship
kept burning and a fire fighting crew was sent out to extinguish it. The ship kept drifting
out into the channel until it hit a pier and finally exploded. The blast was devastating,
igniting a major part of the harbor and city. One half of the city, to be exact, was leveled
or damaged. The explosion caused a huge tidal wave, which sent ships onto the streets.
Around 1226 were killed, and many more injured.

March 12, 2000 (Beijing)
In this tragic event, an explosion in an illegal, unlicensed fireworks factory killed 33 and
injured about 10. The cause of the explosion is not know, but is under investigation. The
factory was owned by two farmers who did not have the proper license for the factory.

July 17, 1944 (California)
This accident involved cargo ships, like with the Nova Scotia tragedy. Two transport
ships were unloading ammunition at Port Chicago naval base when the ships suddenly
burst into flames. The enormous blast caused by the fire leveled the naval base the
munitions were being delivered to, and severely damaged parts of the town of Port
Chicago. Around 320 were killed, and hundreds were injured. The two ships were
completely destroyed, and the pier was leveled. The blast was so big that the blast could
be seen 35 miles away in San Francisco, and windows in houses 20 miles away were
shattered. The blast was so big that some called it the worlds first atomic detonation.
Various Types of Explosives
Hydrogen
Bomb
Rocket
motor
demolition
Army C4
Blasting rock
Blasting
Bomb
Nuke
C4 Bomb
BOOM
C4
C4 bomb
Blasting rock
Dynamite
sticks
Dynamite
Big
Explosion
Explosion 2
Fireball
Grenades
Missile1
Missile2
Missile3
Missile4
Explosive2
Mushroom
cloud
Dust Bomb
Shuttle launch
Small nuke
Underwater
explosion
Trim Blasting
Boom
Explosive Statistics
EXPLOSIVE COLOR USES CLASSIFICATION
Black Powder Black, gray
Safety fuze, Muzzle
loaders
Low Explosive
Smokeless Powder Brown, Black
Small arms, mortars,
rockets
Low Explosive
Lead Azide white, gray
Detonators, priming
compositions
Primary Explosives
Lead Styphnate white, gray
Detonators, priming
compositions
Primary Explosives
Mercury Fulminate orange, red
Detonators, priming
compositions
Primary Explosives
Tetracene pale yellow
Detonators, priming
compositions
Primary Explosives
Amotal yellow, brown
Main charge for bombs,
projectiles
Secondary Explosives
Ammonal gray Projectile filler Secondary Explosives
Ammonium Nitrate white
Ingredient of many
explosive mixtures
Secondary Explosives
TNT yellow, gray
Bombs, projectiles,
demolition
Secondary Explosives
Torpex gray Depth charges, mines Secondary Explosives
Tritonal
silver, gray Bombs Secondary Explosives
RDX white
Det cord, blasting caps,
used to make C-4
Secondary Explosives
Picratol yellow, brown
Armor piercing projectiles
and bombs
Secondary Explosives
PETN white
Det cord, blasting caps,
primer
Secondary Explosives
Picric Acid yellow, red Filler (alternative) Secondary Explosives
Tetryl colorless boosters, blasting caps Secondary Explosives
HMX white
mixed w/TNT for
warheads
Secondary Explosives
C-4 white, brown
plastic explosives,
demoliton
Secondary Explosives












Laws and Legislation

THESE ARE THE NATIONAL EXPLOSIVE REGULATIONS
1. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year of confinement in the county jail. A felony
is punishable by a year or more in the State Prison. You can no longer be in possession of
firearms, hold public office or vote if you are convicted of a felony.

2. A person who is convicted of an offense involving an explosive device is not eligible for
probation. The judge must sentence him to serve time in jail.

3. An M-80 can be considered to be an explosive device and possession of an M-80 can be
a felony.

4. It is a felony to possess or explode a container by the use of expanding gas (example:
vinegar and baking soda or a CO2 device) {a simple rule of thumb is that if it explodes, it is
probably illegal}

5. It is a felony to possess or explode any explosive device. (M-80s, or any explosive device
that can cause serious injury or property damage)

6. It is a felony to possess the components of an explosive device (container, explosive
filler, means of initiating and exploding)

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1705:---It is a federal felony offense, punishable by
up to three years in prison, and up to a $250,000.00 fine. This is the statute for mailbox
vandalism. This includes maliciously injuring, tearing down or destroying any mailbox, those
at someone's house, or the blue ones you put your outgoing mail in. It also includes injuring,
defacing or destroying any mail inside the mail box.

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1716: ---It includes mailing anything dangerous or
flammable, specifically, explosives, poisons, alcohol, firearms, blood, certain knives,
fireworks, bullets, etc. There are exceptions for medical or law enforcement purposes. The
penalty is in three parts. The first is a misdemeanor, punishable by no more than one year in
jail, if the items are mailed. The second part, if the item was mailed with the intent to kill or
injure, is a felony punishable by a $10,000.00 fine and up to 20 years in prison, or both. The
third part is if the mailing resulted in someone's death. This is a felony punishable by the
death penalty or to life imprisonment.
- Bruce'sBombs and Ordnance-