How to make the detonator cap sizes

History of Explosives - From Greek Fire to Modern Explosives

9.1 Ammonium nitrate (ANFO & ANNM)

  • Detonation speed: 2500 m / s (1.4 g / cm3)
  • Density: 1.72 g / cm3
  • Impact sensitivity: 49 joules

The artificial fertilizer ammonium nitrate can also be used as an explosive. This circumstance led to an explosion on September 21, 1921 at BASF's Oppau nitrogen plant. The ammonium nitrate was mixed with 45% ammonium sulfate, which actually makes explosions unlikely. The mixture becomes rock-hard as a result of water absorption. To loosen it, dynamite was used in Oppau, which went smoothly over 20,000 times.

But that day, with such a loosening, 4,500 tons of fertilizer detonated. The explosive power was equivalent to a small atomic bomb weighing about one to two kilotons of TNT.

Of 1,000 apartments in Oppau, 900 were destroyed, leaving 7,500 homeless. A crater 125 meters long, 90 meters wide and 19 meters deep was created on the site of the warehouse building. The bang of the explosion is said to have been heard as far as Frankfurt am Main, 80 kilometers away. Two thumps were heard even in Munich.

ANFO = A.mmoniumNitrat-F.uel- Oil

  • Components: 94% ammonium nitrate, 6% diesel oil
  • Use: mining (salt production)


ANNM = A.mmoniumNitrat-Nitro M.ethane

  • Ingredients: 94–96% ammonium nitrate, 6–4% nitromethane
  • Use: mining (salt production)

ANNM was also used for the terrorist attack on April 19, 1995 in Oklahoma City. 2.4 t of the explosive were detonated. 168 people were killed, 800 people were injured and 300 buildings were damaged. The explosion could still be felt 1.5 km away.
Sources: [85], [86], [87]


9.2 Acetone Peroxide (TATP, APEX)



  • Production: acid-catalyzed condensation of hydrogen peroxide and acetone
  • Detonation speed: 4500-5500 m / s
  • Density: 0.9-1.2 g / cm3 (trimer)
  • Impact sensitivity: 0.3 joules

Acetone peroxide was discovered by chance in 1895 by Richard Wolffenstein (1864–1929) at the Technical University of Berlin. A production process for acetone peroxide was developed by him in 1895 under the number D.R.P. 84953 patent pending in Germany. The extreme sensitivity to impact, volatility (6.5% in 24 h at 14-18 ° C) and lack of stability prevented any practical use.

So far, three different peroxides of acetone are known. Depending on the manufacturing process, a dimeric, trimeric or tetrameric product is obtained, which was only discovered by Chinese researchers in 1999. Because of its simple production, acetone peroxide is often used by young people, so-called APEX kiddies and terrorists. Acetone peroxide was used in the terrorist attack on the London Underground.
Sources: [88], [89], [90], [91]


9.3 Hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD)

  • Production: acid-catalyzed condensation of hydrogen peroxide and hexamethylenetetramine
  • Use: initial explosive (only for a short time)
  • Detonation speed: 4500-5100 m / s
  • Density: 1.57 g / cm3
  • Impact sensitivity: 0.6 joules

HMTD was manufactured by L. Legler in Dresden in 1885. Adolf von Baeyer (1835–1917) and V. Villinger were able to synthesize 1900 HMTD from ammonium sulfate, formaldehyde and hydrogen peroxide. In 1912, Baron Conway von Girsewald discovered another synthesis option in Berlin and applied for a patent for HMTD as the initial explosive.

The low impact sensitivity soon meant that HMTD was no longer used as an initial explosive. But among young people and terrorists, this material enjoys great popularity because of its simple synthesis.
Sources: [92], [93], [94], [95]


History of explosives


Manfred Seidl
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