Explosives: Nitrogen-Containing Fulminates

Chemical explosives are unstable¹ solids (occasionally liquids) that decompose rapidly, releasing large quantities of gas. The sudden volume increase pushes violently against whatever contains the explosive, reducing it to shrapnel and releasing a thunderous noise. Many explosives are nitrogen-containing substances, such as trinitrotoluene (TNT), nitroglycerin, and the picrates. Additional historic explosives include the fulminates, and yes, fulminates contain nitrogen as well. The most famous fulminate is mercuric fulminate, officially named mercury(II) fulminate. Its chemical composition is, Hg(CNO)2 It consists of one mercury atom and two atoms each of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. In greater detail, it can be written, Hg+2(C≡N=O)2 or Hg+2(C≡N+–O-)2 Do Fulminates Remind You of Other Chemicals? Perhaps the anionic fulminate ion, –CNO- reminds you of the cyanate anion, –OCN- or isocyanate anion, –NCO? And well it should,…
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