Erythritol tetranitrate

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Erythritol tetranitrate
ETN crystals.jpg
Crystals of ETN
IUPAC name
[(2R,3R)-1,3,4-Trinitrooxybutan-2-yl] nitrate
Systematic IUPAC name
Erythritol tetranitrate
Other names
Erythrityl tetranitrate
Jmol-3D images Image
Molar mass 302.11 g/mol
Appearance White solid
Odor Odorless
Density 1.827 g/cm3
Melting point 61 °C (142 °F; 334 K)
Boiling point 160 °C (320 °F; 433 K) (decomposes)
Solubility Reacts with alkalis
Soluble in acetone, diethyl ether, ethanol, methanol, isopropanol
Related compounds
Related compounds
Methyl nitrate
Ethylene glycol dinitrate
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
Infobox references

Erythritol tetranitrate or ETN is an explosive compound. Unlike other explosive materials, such as TNT or PETN, ETN is much easier to manufacture and has positive oxygen balance, which gives it a better performance.



ETN is about 3 times more sensitive than PETN and is more sensitive to friction than the former mentioned compound. The decomposition of ETN is oxygen positive:

C4H6N4O12 → 4 CO2 + 3 H2O + N2 + 3/2 O2

Mixing ETN with an oxygen negative explosive material in the best ratio, improves the performance of both materials.


Erythritol tetranitrate is an odorless white solid compound. It is insoluble in water, but very soluble in acetone and other ketones, as well as most alcohols and ethers. Its solubility in alcohol decreases as the alcohol weight increases.


ETN has a high velocity of detonation (VOC) of 8000–8100 m/s, at a density of 1.6 g/cm3. As an explosive, ETN is somewhat sensitive to shock and friction, though less so than most common sensitive explosives. However, it can be reliably detonated in many cases via thermal shock in the presence of certain metals, especially aluminum or iron. Thus, it is important not to store ETN in the presence of aluminum or other metals.

Erythritol tetranitrate is known for having a very long shelf life, samples stored at room temperature show no signs of decomposition even after after four years.


Erythritol tetranitrate is not sold by almost any entities, even big chemical suppliers like Sigma-Aldrich don't have it in their stock.


Erythritol tetranitrate can be prepared by nitrating erythritol using a nitrating mixture. It can be extracted from the reaction product by dissolving it in ethanol and then adding water, which causes it to precipitate.[1]

It's recommended to obtain the final product as powder rather than large crystals, as it's less sensitive.


  • Make blasting charge



Erythritol tetranitrate is sensitive to strong shock and friction, and may explode. If consumed, it results in severe headaches, due to being a strong vasodilator, property seen in other nitrated organic compounds.


ETN should be stored in closed non-metal spark free containers, preferably in special cabinets. For safety and legal reasons avoid storing large amounts. Try to use it as soon as you make it.


ETN can be neutralized with an excess solution of sodium hydroxide, at low temperatures.



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