From The Chemistry of Explosives, Second Edition


Most explosive and propellant compositions contain a mixture of components so as to optimize their performance. Some of the components may not contribute to the heat liberated and may not even contain oxygen. These materials may however, contribute to the gaseous products and reduce the actual temperatures obtained on detonation of the explosive or burning of the propellant. An example of a typical mixed explosive composition is one which contains 60% RDX and 40% TNT, and where the heat of explosion Q has been optimized. In order to calculate the values of Q and V for this composition the oxygen balance and the reaction for decomposition need to be determined. But even before these can be calculated the atomic composition of the mixture must first be established.

Atomic Composition of the Explosive Mixture

Calculations for the atomic composition of 60% RDX/40% TNT are presented in Figure 5.7.

Explosive substance

Empirical formula

Proportion by mass (g)

Molar mass (g)

Molar proportion in 1g of mixture

Mol of atoms in 1g of explosive mixture






C 3H 6N 6O 6








C 7H 5N 3O 6












Figure 5.7: Calculations for the atomic composition of 60% RDX/40% TNT

From the calculations of the atomic composition the empirical formula is found to be C 0.0204H 0.0215

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Topics of Interest

ENERGIZED EXPLOSIVES The heat of explosion Q can be increased by adding to the explosive composition another fuel which has a high heat of combustion ? H c. Such fuels can be found with the lighter...

OXYGEN BALANCE By considering the structural formula of TNT (5.1) and of nitroglycerine (5.2) the proportion of oxygen in each molecule can be calculated and compared with the amount of oxygen...

VOLUME OF GASEOUS PRODUCTS OF EXPLOSION The volume of gas produced during an explosion will provide information on the amount of work done by the explosive. In order to measure the volume of gas...

NITRATION Nitration plays an important role in the preparation of explosives. For example, the most commonly used military and commercial explosive compounds such as TNT, RDX, nitroglycerine, PETN,...

EXPLOSIVE POWER AND POWER INDEX In an explosive reaction, heat and gases are liberated. The volume of gas V and the heat of explosion Q can both be calculated independently but these values can be...