3.3 HIGH-ORDER EXPLOSIVES
High order explosives can be made in the home without too much difficulty. The main problem is acquiring the nitric acid to produce the high explosive. Most high explosives detonate because their molecular structure is made up of some fuel and usually three or more NO2 ( nitrogen dioxide ) molecules. T.N.T., or Tri-Nitro-Toluene is an excellent example of such a material. When a shock wave passes through an molecule of T.N.T., the nitrogen dioxide bond is broken, and the oxygen combines with the fuel, all in a matter of microseconds. This accounts for the great power of nitrogen-based explosives. Remembering that these procedures are NEVER TO BE CARRIED OUT, several methods of manufacturing high-order explosives in the home are listed.
R.D.X., also called cyclonite, or composition C-1 (when mixed with plasticisers) is one of the most valuable of all military explosives. This is because it has more than 150% of the power of T.N.T., and is much easier to detonate. It should not be used alone, since it can be set off by a not-too severe shock. It is less sensitive than mercury fulminate, or nitroglycerine, but it is still too sensitive to be used alone. R.D.X. can be made by the surprisingly simple method outlined hereafter. It is much easier to make in the home than all other high explosives, with the possible exception of ammonium nitrate.
* hexamine or methenamine fuel tablets (50 g)
* 500 ml beaker
1. Place the beaker in the ice bath, (see section 3.13, steps 3-4) and carefully pour 550 ml of concentrated nitric acid into the beaker.
3.32 AMMONIUM NITRATE
Ammonium nitrate could be made by a terrorist according to the hap- hazard method in section 2.33, or it could be stolen from a construction site, since it is usually used in blasting, because it is very stable and insensitive to shock and heat. A terrorist could also buy several Instant Cold-Paks from a drug store or medical supply store. The major disadvantage with ammonium nitrate, from a terrorist's point of view, would be detonating it. A rather powerful priming charge must be used, and usually with a booster charge. The diagram below will explain.
The primer explodes, detonating the T.N.T., which detonates, sending a tremendous shockwave through the ammonium nitrate, detonating it.
ANFO is an acronym for Ammonium Nitrate - Fuel Oil Solution. An ANFO solves the only other major problem with ammonium nitrate: its tendency to pick up water vapor from the air. This results in the explosive failing to detonate when such an attempt is made. This is rectified by mixing 94% (by weight) ammonium nitrate with 6% fuel oil, or kerosene. The kerosene keeps the ammonium nitrate from absorbing moisture from the air. An ANFO also requires a large shockwave to set it off.
T.N.T., or Tri-Nitro-Toluene, is perhaps the second oldest known high explosive. Dynamite, of course, was the first. It is certainly the best known high explosive, since it has been popularized by early morning cartoons. It is the standard for comparing other explosives to, since it is the most well known. In industry, a T.N.T. is made by a three step nitration process that is designed to conserve the nitric and sulfuric acids which are used to make the product. A terrorist, however, would probably opt for the less economical one step method. The one step process is performed by treating toluene with very strong (fuming) sulfuric acid. Then, the sulfated toluene is treated with very strong (fuming) nitric acid in an ice bath. Cold water is added the solution, and it is filtered.
3.35 POTASSIUM CHLORATE
Potassium chlorate itself cannot be made in the home, but it can be obtained from labs. If potassium chlorate is mixed with a small amount of vaseline, or other petroleum jelly, and a shockwave is passed through it, the material will detonate with slightly more power than black powder. It must, however, be confined to detonate it in this manner. The procedure for making such an explosive is outlined below:
* potassium chlorate (9 parts, by volume)
* zip-lock plastic bag
1. Grind the potassium chlorate in the grinding bowl carefully and slowly, until the potassium chlorate is a very fine powder. The finer that it is powdered, the faster (better) it will detonate.
The name dynamite comes from the Greek word "dynamis", meaning power. Dynamite was invented by Nobel shortly after he made nitroglycerine. It was made because nitroglycerine was so dangerously sensitive to shock. A misguided individual with some sanity would, after making nitroglycerine (an insane act) would immediately convert it to dynamite. This can be done by adding various materials to the nitroglycerine, such as sawdust. The sawdust holds a large weight of nitroglycerine per volume. Other materials, such as ammonium nitrate could be added, and they would tend to desensitize the explosive, and increase the power. But even these nitroglycerine compounds are not really safe.
3.37 NITROSTARCH EXPLOSIVES
Nitrostarch explosives are simple to make, and are fairly powerful. All that need be done is treat various starches with a mixture of concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids. 10 ml of concentrated sulfuric acid is added to 10 ml of concentrated nitric acid. To this mixture is added 0.5 grams of starch. Cold water is added, and the apparently unchanged nitrostarch is filtered out. Nitrostarch explosives are of slightly lower power than T.N.T., but they are more readily detonated.
3.38 PICRIC ACID
Picric acid, also known as Tri-Nitro-Phenol, or T.N.P., is a military explosive that is most often used as a booster charge to set off another less sensitive explosive, such as T.N.T. It another explosive that is fairly simple to make, assuming that one can acquire the concentrated sulfuric and nitric acids. Its procedure for manufacture is given in many college chemistry lab manuals, and is easy to follow. The main problem with picric acid is its tendency to form dangerously sensitive and unstable picrate salts, such as potassium picrate. For this reason, it is usually made into a safer form, such as ammonium picrate, also called explosive D. A social deviant would probably use a formula similar to the one presented here to make picric acid.
* phenol (9.5 g)
* 500 ml flask
1. Place 9.5 grams of phenol into the 500 ml flask, and carefully add 12.5 ml of concentrated sulfuric acid and stir the mixture.
3.39 AMMONIUM PICRATE
Ammonium picrate, also called Explosive D, is another safety explosive. It requires a substantial shock to cause it to detonate, slightly less than that required to detonate ammonium nitrate. It is much safer than picric acid, since it has little tendency to form hazardous unstable salts when placed in metal containers. It is simple to make from picric acid and clear household ammonia. All that need be done is put the picric acid crystals into a glass container and dissolve them in a great quantity of hot water. Add clear household ammonia in excess, and allow the excess ammonia to evaporate. The powder remaining should be ammonium picrate.
3.40 NITROGEN TRICHLORIDE
Nitrogen trichloride, also known as chloride of azode, is an oily yellow liquid. It explodes violently when it is heated above 60 degrees celsius, or when it comes in contact with an open flame or spark. It is fairly simple to produce.
3.41 LEAD AZIDE
Lead Azide is a material that is often used as a booster charge for other explosive, but it does well enough on its own as a fairly sensitive explosive. It does not detonate too easily by percussion or impact, but it is easily detonated by heat from an igniter wire, or a blasting cap. It is simple to produce, assuming that the necessary chemicals can be procured. By dissolving sodium azide and lead acetate in water in separate beakers, the two materials are put into an aqueous state. Mix the two beakers together, and apply a gentle heat. Add an excess of the lead acetate solution, until no reaction occurs, and the precipitate on the bottom of the beaker stops forming. Filter off the solution, and wash the precipitate in hot water. The precipitate is lead azide, and it must be stored wet for safety. If lead acetate cannot be found, simply acquire acetic acid, and put lead metal in it. Black powder bullets work well for this purpose.
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