Which explosive is the most powerful?

Which explosive releases the most energy per gram?
Also, what process put the chemical energy into the explosive? I am assuming that vast amounts of electrical energy are used to create these explosives.

Octanitrocubane is one badmutha-shut your mouth! explosive. It’s about twice as dense as TNT. TNT equivalent - Wikipedia

It’s still basically experimental, and very hard to produce, so I don’t know if the process of synthesis involves putting electrodes into a chemical compound to pump electricity into it.

I’m not sure what you’re imagining but I don’t think it resembles the actual process. Developing an explosive basically consists of finding a combination of chemicals that would cause the right reaction when they’re mixed together. You want a reaction that releases a lot of energy really quickly but at the same time you want to have something that prevents the reaction from occurring on its own.

I’d expect something that mixes hydrogen and fluorine/oxygen/nitrogen.

Nitroglycerine, for example, is based on this chemical reaction: 4 C[sub]3[/sub]H[sub]5/sub[sub]3[/sub] > 12 CO[sub]2/sub + 10 H[sub]2[/sub]O(g) + 6 N[sub]2/sub + O[sub]2/sub

What this is are molecules of nitroglycerin (C[sub]3[/sub]H[sub]5/sub[sub]3[/sub]) turning into carbon dioxide, water, nitrogen, and oxygen. The rearranging of the chemical bonds that this change reflects releases a lot of energy.

What controls the reaction is that it doesn’t occur spontaneously. A lump* of nitroglycerin won’t change into carbon dioxide, water, nitrogen, and oxygen on its own. It needs some energy to get the reaction started. The practical problem with nitroglycerin is that the amount of energy needed is pretty small. You can drop a piece of nitroglycerin on the floor and the impact will give it enough energy to initiate the reaction. Generally speaking, you want an explosive where the reaction doesn’t initiate that easily so you have better control of it.

*It’s not really a lump. Nitroglycerin is a liquid.

From Neutronium Wiki:

Big boom there.

Most of Derek Lowe’s Things I Won’t Work With fall under this category.

I’ll take this as a good example of what I am looking for with regards to energy. The material you mention here, carbon dioxide, water etc are low energy molecules yet in the process of making the explosive, a lot of energy must be put into it. What is the source? It is clearly an endothermic reaction.

There’s a chemical compound called dioxygen difluoride, or O[sub]2[/sub]F[sub]2[/sub].

As Wikipedia says:

It’s a bit too reactive to use as a chemical explosive though.

I had to look it up, but this is how nitroglycerin is made:

From here: Industrial nitroglycerin made fast and safe | Business | Chemistry World

The article goes on to say that this is a very exothermic reaction, and if the temperature gets too high it can runaway and explode. In traditional nitroglycerin manufacturing, they add the glycerol slowly to the acid to give it time to dissipate the heat. The article goes on to talk about using microreactors and continuous batch processing to safely increase production, which probably isn’t of interest to this thread.

With nitroglycerin, yes, you’re going to have to spend some energy to produce the compound; nitroglycerin is not a naturally occurring substance.

But you can make explosives without energy. Gunpowder is a good example. You mix sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter and you’ve got an explosive.

**BrotherCadfael **beat me to the punch re that terrific blog. I paraphrase the author regarding some god-awful substance or another: “It’s never a good idea to pack that many Nitrogen atoms into so small a molecule when they all want desperately to be someplace else.”

That average power is way off. I calculate 10[sup]23[/sup] watts of power for two billion tons of neutrons.

A good reference for military explosives is TM 9-1300-214; pdf here - TM 9-1300-214 CHG-4 MILITARY EXPLOSIVES

From Derek Lowe’s blogs - nitrogen atoms (singular) glued on to compounds really, really, really want to recombine as N2. Very exothermic. He describes one compound stable for a few hours (minutes?) as titanium with 12 individual nitrogen atoms bonded to the single titanium atom.

HMX is the most powerful in common use.

Add to above reference to Lowe’s - http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2011/11/11/things_i_wont_work_with_hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane

" Hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane … There’s a recent report of a method to make a more stable form of it, by mixing it with TNT. Yes, this is an example of something that becomes less explosive as a one-to-one cocrystal with TNT. Although, as the authors point out, if you heat those crystals up the two components separate out, and you’re left with crystals of pure CL-20 soaking in liquid TNT, a situation that will heighten your awareness of the fleeting nature of life."

That would be my wife’s temper! :wink:

Derek Lowe is awesome.

A good high explosive is a molecule that has a mix of atoms that can be rearranged into a whole lot of very simple gaseous molecules perfectly (H[sub]2[/sub]O, CO[sub]2[/sub],N[sub]2[/sub] or various oxides of Nitrogen. This molecule should also have twisted or stretched chemical bonds that are exposed in some way, and that when released cause the molecule to move against it’s neighbour, imparting energy as well as the expanding cloud of gas molecules.


If you tried to create these molecules from the resultant gases, it would take a massive amount of energy. But you don’t. You start with a feedstock that has most of the requirements - benzene, maybe - a typical hydrocarbon already in a ring. It will burn, in oxygen, and slowly (compared to an explosive). Toss on some additional oxygen with shortchain carbon/hydroxy/alkoxy groups. Now it will burn without oxygen, but still probably too slowly for an explosive. You then add some nitrogen groups with hot fuming nitric acid and sulphuric acid, and use a catalyst to make it all twisty and stressed. This can now explode.

Then you try to stabilise it and extract it. You have added a bit of heat, and added/removed some electrons, but most of the energy was already there. But you now have a self-disassembling molecule, and all that energy will just now be released very, very fast into a cloud of rapidly expanding hot gas.

:slight_smile: Great adjective.