PETN Explosive: A Nitrate Blasting Solution

by | Aug 31, 2016 | Explosives

If you are looking at employing a powerful explosive, you might want to consider Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). PETN explosive is an organic compound that is also a common pharmaceutical. It belongs to the nitrate ester class. It is not commonly known by lay-people. It does not garner the same attention when mentioned in public as does ammonium nitrate or dynamite. Unless you use it in the same sentence as Semtex, it will not be a topic of knowledgeable conversation. Yet PETN is an explosive material used by various industries and groups on a regular basis.

Characteristics and Properties of PETN

The characteristics and properties of PETN help to make it attractive to those who work in construction and mining. PETN is described as being

* Colorless
* White crystals in shape
* Tetragonal structure when most stable
* Soluble in water at 20 °C
* Molecular weight of 316.15 density 1.76 g/cm3

Such characteristics make it a good choice over other types of explosive material.

Why Choose PETN?

Many industrialists choose PETN as an explosive for any of several reasons. It is:

* Least reactive of the group of nitrate explosives
* Most stable thermally of the nitrates
* Extremely low vapor pressure at ambient temperatures
* Adheres to surfaces
* Melting point of 141.3 °C
* Explosion temperature at 5 s at 225 °C
* Detonates at temperature of 3400 K
* Heat of combustion is 1.96 kcal/g
* Heat of detonation is 1.50 kcal/g
* Produces an instantaneous blast not fragmentation
* Longer shelf life than several other similar explosives

Although PETN explosive can be easily detonated by shock, it is less likely to explode if dropped or shaken. In many cases, however, PETN is not used on its own. It acts in combination with other explosive devices to produce the desired conflagration or controlled blast.

PETN Explosive: Applications

PETN is not a new explosive material. In fact, it has been in use for about 100 years. It is a favorite of miners, construction companies, the military and, unfortunately, terrorists. The latter relies on the difficulty authorities have in detecting it once placed in a container and sealed.
It rarely acts on its own. Instead, PETN is employed as:

* Principal ingredient in detonating fuses or cord e.g. Detacord
* Component of such “plastiques” as Semtex
* Booster in some charges of ammunition – usually small caliber
* Some shells and land mines use in their upper charges

Although not the only material available, and not the oldest on the market, PETN has remained popular but relatively unknown outside those who understand and work with explosives. The only exception is when the word Semtex and PETN explosive are used together.

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