What is TNT made of

In the case of propellant powders, i.e. explosives for firing projectiles, the "gun cotton" (nitrocellulose) discovered by Christian F. Schönbein (1799-1868) in 1846 gave the prelude to further developments. After Schönbein's discovery, however, it took a few years before this chemically unstable compound was modified to such an extent that it found practical use as a low-smoke nitrocellulose powder. In the mid-1880s, the nitrocellulose-based propellant powder replaced the previously common black powder. The advantages of the new powders lay in their better ballistic properties and their largely residue-free burning. In contrast to black powder, which released large amounts of salt compounds when it exploded, the new powders only insignificantly contaminated the barrel of the firearm. The low smoke development also had the great advantage that the location of the shooter was not immediately apparent in combat.

In 1847, one year after Schönbein's discovery of nitrocellulose, the Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero (1812-1888) developed the explosive nitroglycerin. The previously used gunpowder surpassed it by a much higher explosive effect. However, it took some time before this highly explosive connection found its practical and military application. In the case of nitroglycerin, the initial problem was in particular its sensitivity to the slightest vibrations and increased temperature, which could lead to detonation. This changed in 1866 when the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) succeeded in converting the explosive explosive into a manageable form: By introducing the oily nitroglycerin into the porous sedimentary rock, the kieselguhr patented by Nobel a year later was " Dynamite ”was invented.

In the period that followed, there were a number of other discoveries in the area of ​​explosive explosives. The explosives used since the turn of the century, ammonal, trinitrophenol (TNP), also known as picric acid and trinitrotoluene (TNT), were of military importance. These substances replaced the “dynamite” previously common in military use and were among the most widely used agents during the First World War.

In the k. u. k. At the beginning of the war, the army should be converted from ammonal and TNP to TNT, which is easier to process and less sensitive - and therefore safer to handle. However, since the Habsburg chemical industry was insufficiently prepared for this, the majority of the explosive and mine grenades manufactured in Austria-Hungary continued to be filled with ammonal and the mainly TNP-based "Ekrasit" (TNP). But black powder, which was cheap and easy to produce, continued to be used in the military. In the artillery ammunition of the shrapnel, the metal balls cast in the hollow projectiles were driven in the direction of the enemy target.


Klapötke, Thomas M .: Chemistry of High Energy Materials, Berlin 2009

Ortner, M. Christian: The Austro-Hungarian artillery from 1867 to 1918. Technology, organization, combat procedures, Vienna 2007

Rosner, Robert W .: Chemistry in Austria 1740-1914. Teaching, research, industry, Vienna 2004