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Thread: The Explosive Element?

  1. #1
    Valued Senior Member Carcano's Avatar
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    The Explosive Element?

    Tell me...why is it that almost all explosive compounds contain nitrogen?

    Theres nitroglycerin, nitrocellulose, dinitrogen tetroxide. trinitrotoluene (TNT), and so on???

  2. #2
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    Conformation bias? Oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen are also usualy presant; in almost all of your examples too. It is a very common element.
    That said, Nitrogen forms a very strong triple bond with itself (N2), having one of the highest enthalpies (edit: lowest actualy, it's negative, since the formation is exothermic) of any bond type. As such, allot of energy is released when N2 is formed as a resault of the combustion of a nitrogen containing compound (more energy, bigger boom).
    It further (to a lesser extent) has the advantage of being able to bond with up to 3 molecules, versus the 2 oxygen can, or 1 with hydrogen, and as such, one can form more complex molecules using nitrogen. Of course, carbon also offers numerous bonding points, and hence, you will find it presant in almost every complex molecule. And the more complex the molecule, the more molecules it will decompose into (and it's the substantial increase in number of molecules which creates the actual explosion.)

    Anyway, this is all just generalizations.
    -Andrew

  3. #3
    Valued Senior Member Carcano's Avatar
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    Enthalpies?

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    I guess because the triple bond in nitrogen (N2) is very strong (not sure how much),
    so its reaction is highly exothermic (can release high energy in form of heat).

  5. #5
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    Basicaly, a measurement of heat (energy, the unit is joules) of a system. Bond enthalpies denote how much energy is required/released toform/break a particular chemical bond. The wikipedia has a suitable entry, see the Heats of reaction heading.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enthalpy
    Often, the bond enthalpies are not entirely accurate, and the standard enthalpies of formation of specific molecules as a whole are used. You should steal a gr12 or 1st year chem textbook for more info.
    -Andrew

  6. #6
    Valued Senior Member Carcano's Avatar
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    Ok...thanks.

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    Largely it's because nitrates have always been readily available and easy to compound into explosives. There is not another oxidizer that is easy to find in nature, and most animal life produces nitrates in their feces. We literally make explosives out of shit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MetaKron View Post
    Largely it's because nitrates have always been readily available and easy to compound into explosives. There is not another oxidizer that is easy to find in nature, and most animal life produces nitrates in their feces. We literally make explosives out of shit.
    That's incorrect - it contains very little nitrogen compounds. But urine contains a GREAT deal of nitrogen.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Read-Only View Post
    That's incorrect - it contains very little nitrogen compounds. But urine contains a GREAT deal of nitrogen.
    Bat guano. Bull shit.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by MetaKron View Post
    Bat guano. Bull shit.
    Wrong again. It's because both also contain urine. The droppings are largely carboniferous in nature but the urine contains large amounts of UREA - a natural product of carbohydrate digestion/utilization - along with other nitrogen-based salts.

    Rather than continuing to be wrong, do just a little bit of research on urea and it will all become clear.

    Edit: When I said digestion/utilization above, the actual word I wanted to use was metabolism - just wouldn't come to me at that moment.
    Last edited by Read-Only; 05-22-08 at 12:55 PM.

  11. #11
    Valued Senior Member Carcano's Avatar
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    Come to think of it, isnt there a distinction to be made between the energy density of chemical bonds and the speed of their re-arrangement.

    For example Ive read that a kilo of coal has far more potential energy than a kilo of nitroglycerin.

    However that energy is released very slowly through combustion, whereas nitro's energy is released in a split second through explosion.

    The only difference between combustion and explosion is TIME.

    So any explanation why certain elements can be explosive in combination would have to be time specific.
    Last edited by Carcano; 05-22-08 at 11:55 AM.

  12. #12
    I'm just going for a walk... ElectricFetus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carcano View Post
    Come to think of it, isnt there a distinction to be made between the energy density of chemical bonds and the speed of their re-arrangement.

    For example Ive read that a kilo of coal has far more potential energy than a kilo of nitroglycerin.

    However that energy is released very slowly through combustion, whereas nitro's energy is released in a split second through explosion.

    The only difference between combustion and explosion is TIME.

    So any explanation is why certain elements can be explosive would have to be time specific.
    The element it self is not explosive rather due to nitrogen electron configuration it can form molecules that are unstable, these molecules either have very low activation energy needed for them to drop down to much more stable configuration and or are susceptible to self catalyzing run away reactions.

  13. #13
    Valued Senior Member Carcano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElectricFetus View Post
    it can form molecules that are unstable, these molecules either have very low activation energy needed for them to drop down to much more stable configuration and or are susceptible to self catalyzing run away reactions.
    How is that time specific?

  14. #14
    I'm just going for a walk... ElectricFetus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carcano View Post
    How is that time specific?
    A low activation energy usually increase the chance a reaction will take place, or thus the rate it will take to reach equilibrium, if the activation energy is high the rate will be very slow if at all happening, if the activation energy is low and the reaction is self catalysis the reaction once started will reach equilibrium nearly instantly.

  15. #15
    Valued Senior Member Carcano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElectricFetus View Post
    A low activation energy usually increase the chance a reaction will take place, or thus the rate it will take to reach equilibrium, if the activation energy is high the rate will be very slow if at all happening, if the activation energy is low and the reaction is self catalysis the reaction once started will reach equilibrium nearly instantly.
    There we go...thats the answer I was looking for.

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