Pentaerythritol tetranitrate

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Pentaerythritol tetranitrate
Pentaerythritol tetranitrate PETN by Explosiopedia.jpg
IUPAC name
[3-Nitrooxy-2,2-bis(nitrooxymethyl)propyl] nitrate
Other names
Pentaerythrityl tetranitrate
Jmol-3D images Image
Molar mass 316.14 g/mol
Appearance White crystalline solid
Density 1.77 g/cm3 (at 20 °C)
Melting point 141.3 °C (286.3 °F; 414.4 K)
Boiling point 180 °C (356 °F; 453 K) (decomp. begins > 150 °C)
0.0043 mg/100 mL (at 20 °C)[1]
Solubility Very soluble in acetone
Soluble in benzene, toluene
Slightly soluble in methanol
Solubility in acetone 25.4 g/100 g (20 °C)
Solubility in ethyl acetate 10.619 g/100 g
Safety data sheet detotec
Related compounds
Related compounds
Erythritol tetranitrate
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
Infobox references

Pentaerythritol tetranitrate or PETN is an explosive material, widely used in military applications, mainly due to its good stability and general performances. It is a nitrated organic compound, with the chemical formula C5H8N4O12.



PETN will burn if ignited in air, releasing carbon dioxide, water vapor and soot.

PETN does not hydrolyze in water at room temperature, though this changes at high temperatures.


PETN is a white crystalline solid, insoluble in water, but soluble in acetone and dimethylformamide (40 g/100 g at 40 °C), as well as benzene and toluene. It also shows good solubility in ethyl acetate (10.619 g/100 g EtOAc).[2] It is also slightly soluble in alcohols, such as methanol and ethanol.


Pentaerythritol tetranitrate is one of the most powerful explosive materials known, with a relative effectiveness (RE) factor of 1.66.

PETN is rarely used as a pure compound in explosive devices, instead it is mixed with various plasticizers, to form plastic explosives. When mixed with with RDX, binders (styrene-butadiene e.g.), plasticizers (such as n-octyl phthalate or tributyl citrate), antioxidants (N-phenyl-2-naphthylamine) and dyes (Sudan I or IV) it forms a very powerful plastic explosive called Semtex, widely used by various countries of the former Soviet block.

PETN is more difficult to detonate than primary explosives: dropping or igniting a block of PETN will not result in an explosion (at atmospheric pressure it is difficult to ignite and burns slow), however it is more sensitive to shock and friction than other secondary explosives such as TNT or tetryl.


PETN is sold in pharmacies as a vasodilator, as treatment for heart conditions. The heart medicine Lentonitrat is nearly pure PETN.


PETN can be prepared by nitrating pentaerythritol using concentrated nitric acid under controlled conditions.[3]


  • Make blasting charges
  • Heart medication



PETN is a vasoldilator and ingestion should be avoided.


PETN should be stored in closed containers. Urea is sometimes added as a stabilizer.


PETN can be safely neutralized with Fenton's reagent. Diluted solutions of PETN should be added slowly, to prevent splashing.

Powdered iron can be used as a reducing agent.[4]


  1. Clayton, G. D. and F. E. Clayton (eds.). Patty's Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology: Volume 2A, 2B, 2C: Toxicology. 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley Sons, 1981-1982., p. 4195

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