Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Getting Started with Energetic Materials

Aesopian Paradox - 16-5-2012 at 06:19


I've taken a recent interest in explosives (and chemistry in general for that matter) and having been looking for and reading some literature on the subject. I started with The Chemistry of Powders and Explosives by Tenney L. Davis but dropped it during the pyrotechnics chapter as it didn't seem to be organized very well. It started giving a lot of recipes without adequately explaining what the purpose was for including the various ingredients. I'm sure there's some useful information in there, but it didn't seem like a good place to start for someone just starting.

I picked up The Chemistry of Explosives Second Edition by Jacqueline Akhavan and am almost finished with it. It was exactly what I had been looking for and is more or less of a layman's guide to the theory of energetic materials. I thought about picking Davis's book back up, but was wondering if I should just go straight to Tadeusz Urbanski's The Chemistry and Technology of Explosives. A statement I read here kind of gave that impression.

I was also wondering if the subsequent volumes of Urbanski's books were just amended versions of the previous volumes and if I should just read volume 4. Their tables of contents sure give that impression.

hissingnoise - 16-5-2012 at 07:06

According to Akhavan, pentaerythritol is 'prepared' by mixing formalin with lime in solution at about 70°C.
She then goes on to say that pentaerythritol is nitrated by concentrated? nitric acid . . .
There are other deficiencies that escape me now!
Davis's "COPAE" may be somewhat dated but the data given are essentially correct for the 1940s!
"COPAE" can be downloaded from the site-library, BTW.
The best that can be said about Akhavan is that she's a cut above that idiot Ledgard!

quicksilver - 17-5-2012 at 11:14

Simply as an opinion, reading & studying (especially in historical context) has a great deal more to give a student (everyone is a student) than to attempt to find a concise version of an encyclopedia of energetics. It is by far safer [than direct experimentation] and gives an opportunity to lean at one's own pace.

Reading (in depth) issues dealing with the history of energetic chemistry - (again, in my opinion) allows the individual every opportunity to understand the chemistry, physics, and context of the subject: while delving directly into this subject without SOME level of chemistry background can be both frustrating and dangerous. Often seemingly unrelated chemistry issues provide answers that had not been obvious before.

One composition which provides an enormous amount of learning is black powder (gun powder). It illustrates a great many things and if reasonable safety is met (eye, hand protection, distance initiation, non-enclosure, etc) is less dangerous than many others (notice I said LESS dangerous). Black powder may illustrate oxidizer function, gas propulsion and work obtained & opens the door to a great many issues as it can be adjusted in burning rates and gas production.
The study of HISTORY of energetics is incredibly valuable.The concept of the "initiant", explosive train, & shelf-life principals can be illustrated. The difference between a high explosive and a low explosive ( a composition vs. an energetic molecule ) illustrate the need for a greater understanding of chemistry and purification techniques.

Black powder can be made to burn at such differing rates that some can approach the speed of flash powder and leave few solids, while others burn slower (& leave more solids) - each example being VERY useful for an application. Even concepts such as reducing agents, purity issues, and solution intimacy techniques can be achieved in a less dangerous manner than with high explosives.

Most of these issues call into play the "fuel" of the composition: illustrated widely by the TYPE of and design. Once understood, the illustration of the single molecule rather than the composition becomes clearer as well as those laboratory techniques surrounding them.

Energetic chemistry is not safe. It is simply "less dangerous" if certain factors are focused upon. Like many endeavors in life, it is always wiser to begin in a learning process that one has more control & can understand greater than one which has greater demands from the beginning.
You are on the correct path by reading and studying. However there are many areas in which to study. Beginning Calculus when one has not mastered other levels of mathematics can be frustrating to anyone.

You are always invited to "U2U-Message" people here with questions. The areas that will (hopefully) be primary would be safety, self teaching through study, the subject's history, & idiosyncrasies that bring together a wider understanding of the concept(s).
Learn to use the "SEARCH" engine prior to starting a thread as the subject you may want to learn about could have a lengthy discussion behind it. If it really DOESN'T have a thread: then by all means ask (however acquaint yourself with the "Rules" first.
This Forum has roughly a decade long history and an enormous amount of material within.

[Edited on 17-5-2012 by quicksilver]

Explosci - 17-5-2012 at 12:25

I have a list of good explosives books here:

/shameless plug

except the last book....that should never seriously be consulted. the rest are good though

detonator - 8-12-2012 at 22:45

I started on the explosive interest when I was 15 years old.:D
I like reading books on the subject.

[Edited on 9-12-2012 by detonator]