Encyclopedia of Explosives and Related Items

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To include a comma in your tag, surround the tag with double quotes. Please enable cookies in your browser to get the full Trove experience. Skip to content Skip to search. Fedoroff [and others] assisted by Cyrus G. Dunkle, Hans Walter, and Dan C. Fedoroff, Basil T. Basil Timothy , Published Dover, N. Author Fedoroff, Basil T. Other Authors Clift, G. George Dixon , Manual for explosives laboratories.

Edition [Rev. Subjects Explosives -- Encyclopedias. Notes Earlier ed. Clift and B. Fedoroff, published in , under title: A manual for explosives laboratories. Fedoroff and O. Sheffield assisted by the Franklin Institute Research Laboratories. Kaye, published by U. View online Borrow Buy. Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"? Open to the public ; HELD; v. Not open to the public Open to the public ; q Open to the public NQ Fireworks are also low explosives. High, or detonating, explosives are much more powerful than primary explosives.

When they are detonated, all parts of the explosive explode within a few millionths of a second. Some are also less likely than primary explosives to explode by accident. They provide the explosive force delivered by hand grenades, bombs, and artillery shells. High explosives that are set off by heat are called primary explosives. High explosives that can only be set off by a detonator are called secondary explosives. When mixed with oil or wax, high explosives become like clay. These plastic explosives can be molded into various shapes to hide them or to direct explosions. In the s and s, plastic explosives became a favorite weapon of terrorists.

Plastic explosive can even be pressed flat to fit into an ordinary mailing envelope for use as a letter bomb. The power of chemical explosives comes from the rapid release of heat and the formation of gases when atoms in the chemicals break their bonds to other atoms. The power of nuclear explosives comes not from breaking chemical bonds but from the core of the atom itself. When unstable nuclei of heavy elements, such are uranium or plutonium, are split apart, or when the nuclei of light elements, such as the isotopes of hydrogen deuterium or tritium, are forced together, in nuclear explosives they release tremendous amounts of uncontrolled energy.

These nuclear reactions are called fission and fusion. Fission creates the explosive power of the atomic bomb. Fusion creates the power of the thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb.

Non‐traditional explosives: Potential detection problems - Semantic Scholar

Like chemical explosives, nuclear weapons create heat and a shock wave generated by expanding gases. The power of nuclear explosive, however, is far greater than any chemical explosive. A ball of uranium small enough to fit into a human hand can explode with the force equal to 20, tons of TNT. The heat or thermal radiation released during the explosion travels with the speed of light and the shock wave destroys objects in its path with hurricane-like winds.

Nuclear explosives are so much more powerful than chemical explosives that their force is measured in terms of thousands of tons kilotons of TNT. Unlike chemical explosives, nuclear explosives also generate radioactive fallout. Explosives continue to have many important peacetime uses in fields like engineering, construction, mining, and quarrying.

They propel rockets and space shuttles into orbit. Explosives are also used to bond different metals, like those in United States coins, together in a tight sandwich. Explosives carefully applied to carbon produce industrial diamonds for as cutting, grinding and polishing tools. Today, dynamite is not used as often as it once was. Since , different chemical explosives have been developed. Slurry explosives, a relatively new type of explosive, are liquid and can be poured into place. One popular explosive for industrial use is made from fertilizers like ammonium nitrate or urea, fuel oil, and nitric or sulfuric acid.

This ammonium nitrate-fuel oil, or ANFO explosive, has replaced dynamite as the explosive of choice for many peacetime uses. An ANFO explosion, although potentially powerful and even devastating, detonates more slowly than an explosion of nitroglycerin or TNT. This creates more of an explosive push than a high velocity TNT blast. Unfortunately, terrorists also began using bombs made from fertilizer and fuel oil.

Two hundred forty-one marines were killed when a truck loaded with such an ANFO mixture exploded in their barracks in Beirut Lebanon in Six people were killed and more than 1, injured by a similar bombing in the World Trade Center in New York in In , terrorists used the same type of explosive to kill more than people in Oklahoma City , Oklahoma. Due to the secretive government in North Korea , the reason that the disaster occurred is still a mystery to the world.

Nuclear explosives have evolved too. They are more compact than they were in the mid-part of the century. Today they fit into artillery shells and missiles. Chemical explosive — A substance that violently and rapidly releases chemical energy creating heat and often a shock wave generated by release of gases. Dynamite — A explosive made by impregnating an inert, absorbent substance with nitroglycerin or ammonium nitrate mixed with combustible substance, such as wood pulp, and an antacid.

Gunpowder — An explosive mixture of charcoal, potassium nitrate , and sulfur often used to propel bullets from guns and shells from cannons. Nitroglycerine — An explosive liquid used to make dynamite. Also used as a medicine to dilate blood vessels. Nuclear explosive — Device that get its explosive force from the release of nuclear energy. TNT — Trinitrotoluene, a high explosive. Weapons designers also have created so-called clean bombs that generate little radioactive fallout and dirty bombs that generate more radioactive fallout than older versions.

Explosions of neutron bombs have been designed to kill humans with neutron radiation but cause little damage to buildings compared to other nuclear explosives. Akhavan, Jacqueline. The Chemistry of Explosives.


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The Nuclear Age. Townshend, Charles, ed. The Oxford History of Modern War. Warf, James C. All Things Nuclear. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. Haycock, Dean " Explosives. Haycock, Dean "Explosives. September 23, Retrieved September 23, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Explosives are substances that produce violent chemical or nuclear reactions. Chemical explosives can be set off, or detonated, by heat, electricity , physical shock, or another explosive. A single nuclear explosive can destroy an entire city and rapidly kill thousands of its inhabitants with lethal radiation , intense heat and blast effects.

In peacetime they are used to blast rock and stone for mining and quarrying, project rockets into space , and fireworks into the sky. In wartime, they project missiles carrying warheads toward enemy targets, propel bullets from guns, artillery shells from cannon, and provide the destructive force in warheads, mines, artillery shells, torpedoes, bombs, and hand grenades. So far, nuclear explosives have been used only in war. The first chemical explosive was gunpowder, or black powder, a mixture of charcoal, sulfur , and potassium nitrate or saltpeter.

Remarkably, the Chinese did not use gunpowder as a weapon of war until long after Europeans began using it to shoot stones and spear-like projectiles from tubes and, later, metal balls from cannon and guns. Clearly by the beginning in the thirteenth century gunpowder was used more often to make war than to make fireworks in the West. It remained the only explosive for hundred years, until , when another explosive called fulminating gold was discovered. Armies and navies who learned to use it first—the rebellious Czech Taborites fighting the Germans in and the English Navy fighting the Spanish in , for example—scored influential early victories.

This changed the way wars were fought, and won, and so changed the relationship between peoples and their rulers. Royalty could no longer hide behind stone walls in castles. In Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero invented the first modern explosive, nitroglycerin, by treating glycerin with nitric and sulfuric acids. Sobrero's discovery was, unfortunately for many early users, too unstable to be used safely. This inspired Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel in to seek a safe way to package nitroglycerin. But Nobel continued experimenting with explosives and in , invented a gelatinous dynamite, an explosive jelly.

When he died, Nobel used the fortune he made from dynamite and other inventions to establish the Nobel prizes, which were originally awarded for significant accomplishment in the areas of medicine, chemistry , physics , and peace. Continued research has produced many more types of chemical explosives than those known in Nobel's time: percholates, chlorates, ammonium nitrate-fuel oil mixtures ANFO , and liquid oxygen explosives are examples. The first device was invented in by William Bickford, an Englishman. In , Nobel invented the blasting cap, a device that increased the ease and safety of handling nitroglycerin.

It is itself a low explosive that is easily ignited. Detonators are ignited by primers. Primers burst into flame when heated by a burning fuse or electrical wire, or when mechanically shocked. Instead of generating an explosion from rapid chemical reactions , like nitroglycerin or TNT, the atomic bomb releases extraordinary amounts of energy when nuclei of plutonium or uranium are split apart in a process called nuclear fission.

The amount of oxygen in the air deep in a cannon barrel or a mine shaft may not be enough ensure a dependably powerful blast. Anytime a room or building is filled with dust of flammable substances such as wood , coal , or even flour, a spark can start a fire that will spread so fast through the dust cloud that an explosion will result. Another blasting agent, a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, ANFO, has been used by terrorists around the world because the components are readily available and unregulated.

In fact this relatively slow burning explosive is preferred in guns and artillery because too rapid an explosion could blow up the weapon itself. The slower explosive has the effects of building up pressure to smoothly force the bullet or shell out of the weapon. Plastic explosive can even be pressed flat to fit into an ordinary mailing envelope for use as a "letter bomb. When unstable nuclei of heavy elements, such are uranium or plutonium, are split apart, or when the nuclei of light elements, such as the isotopes of hydrogen deuterium or tritium , are forced together, in nuclear explosives they release tremendous amounts of uncontrolled energy.

A ball of uranium- small enough to fit into your hand can explode with the force equal to 20, tons of TNT. Explosives continue to have many important peacetime uses in fields like engineering , construction, mining, and quarrying. Since different chemical explosives have been developed.

Condensed phase thermochemistry data

A relatively new type of explosive, "slurry explosives," are liquid and can be poured into place. One popular explosive for industrial use is made from fertilizers like ammonium nitrate or urea , fuel oil, and nitric or sulfuric acid. This "ammonium nitrate-fuel oil" or ANFO explosive has replaced dynamite as the explosive of choice for many peacetime uses. This creates more of an explosive "push" than a high velocity TNT blast.

In , terrorists used the same type of explosive to kill more than people in Oklahoma City. Today they fit into artillery shells and missiles launched from land vehicles. Weapons designers also have created "clean" bombs that generate little radioactive fallout and "dirty" bombs that generate more radioactive fallout than older versions. Explosions of "neutron" bombs have been designed to kill humans with neutron radiation but cause little damage to buildings compared to other nuclear explosives.

Keegan, John. A History of Warfare. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, Stephenson, Michael, and Roger Hearn. The Nuclear Casebook. London: Frederick Muller Limited, Treaster, Joseph B. Some of the most significant and tragic events in the history of the last few hundred years have involved explosives in the form of bombs — devices used in a deliberate attempt to harm others.

The forensic investigation of these incidents has often been a multi-disciplinary affair. Explosives experts and fire investigators are needed to analyze the event itself and discover what kind of device was used and where it may have originated. Bombs typically cause multiple injuries that can be challenging for the forensic pathologist to assess. There has also increasingly been a role for the forensic psychiatrist, as some of those responsible for a bombing are clearly mentally disturbed. Bombs are often planted by those with political motivations or grudges, working as a group or alone.

Their actions, or even the threat of them, cause a great deal of public anxiety and are remembered for a long time. In Britain , one of the first major explosion attempts, the Gunpowder Plot , is now remembered in the annual celebration of Guy Fawkes , or Bonfire, Night on the fifth of November. Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were extremists who wanted to return England to the Catholic faith by blowing up the Houses of Parliament , killing King James I and his government.

This bold plan involved rolling 36 barrels into the cellars of the Houses of Parliament. However, one of the group sent a warning letter to a friend in Parliament and this was intercepted and handed to the King. The group was arrested before they could ignite the gunpowder and put to death after trial. On Bonfire Night, people in Britain burn effigies of Guy Fawkes on bonfires and set off fireworks to commemorate the would-be explosions.

It is all harmless fun, many firework displays are now organized by local authorities in the interests of public safety. In the twentieth century, Britain has suffered terrible losses of life through the bombings of the Irish Republican Army IRA , a group wanting the re-unification of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. On November 21, , bombs exploded in two pubs in central Birmingham, The Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town, killing 21 people and injuring another This was one of the worst IRA atrocities and of special interest because of some forensic issues it raises.

The IRA at first claimed responsibility for the bombings, then withdrew their statement. It is widely assumed the group was behind the attack. Police arrested six men known to have associations with IRA personnel in connection with the bombings and they were convicted in However, the "Birmingham Six" were freed on appeal in Police and prison officers were found to have extracted false confessions and there was, in fact, no hard evidence of any kind linking the men to the bombing scene.

Forensic evidence at the trial had included a positive Griess test for traces of explosives on the hands of two of the suspects. In fact, the results of these tests proved inconclusive and were the subject of some dispute between the forensic experts engaged on the case. No-one else has ever been convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings. Letter bombs are often the work of one individual who wishes to terrorize others, for whatever reason. Perhaps the most famous case of letter bomb crime involved Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. In the first Unabomber incident, a package found in a University of Illinois parking lot in Chicago on May 25, , exploded, injuring one person.

Several similar incidents followed. The first fatality occurred on December 11, , when the owner of a computer company picked up a bomb left outside his business. A sighting of the Unabomber in led to a cessation of attacks until when Kaczynski revealed his anarchist views in a letter to the New York Times.

After more bombings and fatalities, the Unabomber was finally caught on April 3, Forensic psychiatrist Sally Johnson declared Kaczynski fit to stand trial even though he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Britain's worst ever terrorist incident involved the placing of a bomb on Pam Am Flight over Lockerbie, Scotland , on December 21, None of the crewmembers and passengers on board survived.

Explosive material

Forensic investigation revealed that the U. The plane disintegrated in mid-air, creating 1, significant items of debris needing to be investigated. Larger items, such as the engines and the aircraft wings, fell on the town of Lockerbie, producing a fireball and killing 11 people on the ground. Lighter debris was scattered for many miles. Forensic scientists discovered traces of explosive material in the debris and were able to reconstruct the explosion and the impact it had on the plane. Post-mortem examination of the victims revealed they died of multiple injuries consistent with a mid-air explosion followed by impact on the ground.

A former Libyan intelligence officer called Abdel Bassett al-Megrahi was convicted of the bombing and is serving a life sentence in Scotland. On February 26, , a car bomb was planted in the underground garage below Tower One, killing six people when it went off and injuring over 1, others. Analysis revealed the pound bomb was composed of urea, nitroglycerin, sulfuric acid , aluminium azide, and bottled hydrogen gas. The device was placed in a van and attached to four fuses which the perpetrator, a Kuwaiti man called Ramzi Yousef, ignited with a cigarette lighter.

He escaped to Pakistan after the explosion and was involved in many other terrorist attacks before his capture in Until the attacks of September 11, the Oklahoma bombing , in the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah local government building, was the worst terror incident on U. It killed people and injured more than others. The homemade bomb was found to have 2, kilograms of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil packed into a hired van.

McVeigh, a former soldier, was said to be obsessed with guns and mistrustful of authority. His motive was, apparently, to retaliate against the U. After September 11, there were two major terror attacks involving bomb explosions, one in Bali and one in Madrid, Spain. The Bali bombing occurred on October 12, , in Paddy's Bar, in the town of Kuta, killing people and injuring another , most of them foreign tourists. An electronically-triggered bomb ripped through the bar, driving the injured into the street. A few seconds later, a second, and much more powerful, car bomb went off in front of the Sari Club.

This main bomb proved to be made of ammonium nitrate. In , four men were sentenced to death for their part on the bombing, although the sentences have not yet been carried out as of March On March 11, , in Madrid, Spain, people died when a string of ten bombs placed in backpacks and carried on four separate commuter trains went off.

Later, three more backpack bombs were safely detonated; they had been timed to go off when rescuers and investigators would have been on the scene. Twenty-two suspects are being held in Spain and there is debate as to whether an Islamic fundamentalist group like Al Qaeda or the Basque separatist group ETA was responsible for the blasts. The explosive used in the train bombs was a type of dynamite sold in Spain and used in mining. The material resembles that previously used by ETA, although it is a more modern version.

Analysis of the backpack bombs showed the explosive was reinforced with shrapnel, and investigators also found a detonator with a cell phone and a timer. The phones have proved a particularly useful source of evidence. Later, a similar unexploded bomb was found on a railway line at Mocejon, 40 miles south of Madrid. The devices had detonators of the type used in the mining industry, although they were made of copper, which is regarded as more sophisticated than the aluminum versions normally used by the ETA group.

The investigation of the Madrid bombings has covered other possibly related incidents, including the discovery in the previous month of a van with kilograms of explosives, and the prevention of a similar attack where multiple bombs would have gone off simultaneously on the commuter trains system. Both of these incidents involved ETA.


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On the other hand, the near simultaneous attacks of the Madrid bombings were more typical of Al Qaeda. The attack was larger in scale than anything ETA has ever carried out before. Like the IRA, the group generally accompanies its attacks with warnings and claims responsibility for them.

In the case of the Madrid bombings, ETA has denied involvement. It is up to the court, backed by expert evidence, to decide who is responsible and, it is to be hoped, convict the perpetrators. Forensic science can do much to help in the "war against terror" as experience is gained through the investigation of the dreadful events of recent years.

Explosives are materials that produce violent chemical or nuclear reactions. Shock waves produced by rapidly expanded gases are responsible for much of the destruction seen following an explosion. Probably the oldest known explosive is black gunpowder, a mixture of charcoal carbon , sulfur, and saltpeter potassium nitrate. When these three chemicals are ignited, a chemical reaction takes place very quickly.

The products of that reaction are carbon dioxide , carbon monoxide , sulfur dioxide , and nitric oxide all gases as well as potassium carbonate and potassium sulfide two solids. The four gases formed in the reaction are heated to very high temperatures and expand very rapidly.

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They form shock waves that have the ability to knock down trees, buildings, people, and other objects in their way. The shock wave also carries with it very hot gases that can burn objects and initiate fires. The combination of shock wave and high temperature is characteristic of most kinds of explosives. Gunpowder was first invented in China no later than about a. For hundreds of years, it was used mainly to create fireworks. The Chinese did not use gunpowder as a weapon of war; it was the Europeans who first adapted explosives for use in weapons.

By the fourteenth century, Europeans were widely using the explosive as a military device to project stones, spearlike projectiles, and metal balls from cannons and guns. Chemical explosive: A compound or mixture that releases chemical energy violently and rapidly, creating heat and a shock wave generated by a release of gases. Dynamite: An explosive made by soaking an inert inactive or stable , absorbent substance with a mixture of 1 nitroglycerin or ammonium nitrate, 2 a combustible substance a substance with the ability to burn , such as wood pulp, and 3 an antacid.

Gunpowder: An explosive mixture of charcoal, potassium nitrate , and sulfur often used to propel bullets from guns and shells from cannons. Nitroglycerine: An explosive liquid used to make dynamite. Nuclear explosive: A device that obtains its explosive force from the release of nuclear energy. For the next years, gunpowder was used almost exclusively for pyrotechnic fireworks displays and in warfare. Then, in , Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero — invented the first modern explosive, nitroglycerin.

In , Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel — began to look for a way to package nitroglycerin safely.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EXPLOSIVES AND RELATED ITEMS VOLUME 10

His solution was to mix nitroglycerin with an inert inactive absorbent material called kieselguhr. He called his invention dynamite. Virtually overnight, Nobel's invention revolutionized the mining industry. Dynamite was five times as powerful as gunpowder, relatively easy to produce, and reasonably safe to use. For the first time in history, explosives began to be used for a productive purpose: the tearing apart of land in order to gain access to valuable minerals.

Nobel became extremely wealthy as a result of his discovery. But he is said to have been worried about the terrible potential for destruction that his invention had made possible. When he died, he directed that his fortune be used to create the Nobel Foundation, the purpose of which was to bring about lasting peace and advance technology.

The Nobel Prizes in various fields of science are now the highest honors that scientists can earn. Explosives can be classified into one of four large categories: primary, low, high, and nuclear explosives. Primary explosives. Primary explosives are generally used to set off other explosives. They are very sensitive to shock, heat, and electricity and, therefore, must be handled with great care. Two common examples are mercury fulminate and lead azide.

Primary explosives also are known as initiating explosives, blasting caps, detonators, or primers. Low explosives. Low explosives are characterized by the fact that they burn only at their surface. For example, when a cylinder of black gunpowder is ignited, it begins burning at one end of the cylinder and then continues to the other end. This process takes place very rapidly, however, and is complete in just a few thousandths of a second.

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This property of slowed combustion is preferred in guns and artillery because too rapid an explosion could cause the weapon itself to blow up. A slower explosive has the effects of building up pressure to force a bullet or shell smoothly out of the weapon. Fireworks also are low explosives. High explosives. High explosives are much more powerful than primary explosives. When they are detonated, all parts of the explosive blow up within a few millionths of a second. Some also are less likely than primary explosives to explode by accident.

High explosives that can be set off only by a detonator are called secondary explosives. In the s and s, plastic explosives became a favorite weapon of terrorists people who use violence in order to force a government into granting their demands. Plastic explosives can even be pressed flat to fit into an ordinary mailing envelope for use as a "letter bomb. Nuclear explosives. Research during World War II — 45 produced an entirely new kind of explosive: nuclear explosives. Nuclear explosives produce their explosive power not by chemical reactions, as with traditional explosives, but through nuclear reactions.

In some types of nuclear reactions, large atomic nuclei are split or fissioned into two pieces. In a second type of nuclear reaction, small atomic nuclei are combined or fused to make a single large nucleus, again with the release of large amounts of energy. These two kinds of nuclear explosives were first used as weapons at the end of World War II. The world's first atomic bomb , dropped on Hiroshima , Japan , in , for example, was a fission weapon. The world's first hydrogen bomb , tested at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in , was a fusion weapon. Since the end of World War II , a half-dozen nations in the world have continued to develop and build both fission and fusion weapons.

Efforts also have been made to find peaceful uses for nuclear explosives, as in mining operations, although these efforts have not been fully successful. Europeans began using powder only in the thirteenth century, when Roger Bacon added charcoal to the saltpeter and sulfur, creating "black powder. Bacon's creation was the only known explosive for several hundred years. Explosives are also used to produce the minerals used to make everything from televisions to paper clips to toothpaste to medicines.

The mining and construction industries use "low explosives," which burn at slow rates and are designed to dislodge large pieces of rock and ore. Fireworks and signaling devices are other examples of low explosives. High explosives, which burn at a much faster rate, are used primarily for warfare and can be found in bombs, torpedoes, explosive shells, and missile warheads.

Early Americans used black powder mainly for hunting game.



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