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Newer Explosives

In 1905, nine years after Nobel died, the military found a favorite explosive in TNT (trinitrotoluene). Like nitroglycerin, TNT is highly explosive but unlike nitroglycerin, it does not explode when it is bumped or shocked under normal conditions. It requires a detonator to explode. Many of the wars in this century were fought with TNT as the main explosive and with gunpowder as the main propellant of bullets and artillery shells. Explosives based on ammonium picrate and picric acid were also used by the military.

A completely different type of explosive, a nuclear explosive, was first tested on July 16, 1945, in New Mexico. 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. This new type of explosive was so powerful that the first atomic bomb exploded with the force of 20,000 tons of TNT.

Beginning in the early 1950s, atomic bombs were used as detonators for the most powerful explosives of all, thermonuclear hydrogen bombs, or H-bombs. Instead of tapping the energy released when atoms are split apart, hydrogen bombs deliver the energy released when types of hydrogen atoms are forced together in a process called nuclear fusion. Hydrogen bombs have exploded with as much force as 15 million tons of TNT.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Evolution to FerrocyanideExplosives - History, Controlling Explosives, Newer Explosives, Types Of Explosives And Their Sources Of Power, Four Classifications Of Chemical Explosives