Trinitrotoluene

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What is TNT?

The TNT full form in chemistry is trinitrotoluene. The chemical compound trinitrotoluene, or more precisely 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, has the formula C6H2(NO2)3CH3. This trinitrotoluene is used as a reagent in chemical synthesis, but it is better known as an explosive with easy handling properties. TNT's explosive yield is regarded as the industry norm for comparing bombs and explosives' destructiveness. TNT chemical is used to create charge transfer salts in chemistry. As we discussed what is TNT, now let’s discuss the properties of TNT.

TNT in chemistry has the following properties-

  1. Molar mass of trinitrotoluene is 227.132 g·mol−1

  2. Its appearance is Pale yellow solid. Loose "needles", flakes, or prills before melt-casting.

  3. Density is 1.654 g/cm3

  4. The melting point is 80.35 °C (176.63 °F; 353.50 K)

  5. Boiling point is 240.0 °C (464.0 °F; 513.1 K) (decomposes)[1]

  6. Solubility in water is 0.13 g/L (20 °C)

  7. Solubility in ether, acetone, benzene, pyridine is soluble

  8. Vapour pressure is 0.0002 mmHg (20°C)

Discovery of TNT

TNT full name trinitrotoluene was invented by German chemist Julius Wilbrand in 1863 and was originally used as a yellow dye. It took three decades for its potential as an explosive to be recognized, mostly because it was too difficult to detonate and less effective than alternatives. Carl Häussermann, a German chemist, was the first to discover its explosive properties in 1891. TNT is so insensitive that it was removed from the UK's Explosives Act 1875 and was not considered an explosive for manufacture and storage.

Preparation of Trinitrotoluene

In Industry

A three-step process is used to produce TNT. 

  1. To generate mono-nitrotoluene, toluene is first nitrated with a mixture of sulfuric and nitric acid (MNT).

  2.  The MNT is isolated and then reacted with dinitrotoluene to produce dinitrotoluene (DNT).

  3.  Using an anhydrous mixture of nitric acid and oleum, the DNT is nitrated to trinitrotoluene (TNT) in the final step.

 TNT is stabilized after nitration by sulfitation, which involves treating crude TNT with an aqueous sodium sulfite solution to eliminate less stable isomers of TNT and other undesirable reaction products. Redwater is the sulfitation rinse water, which is a major pollutant and waste product of TNT production.

In Laboratory

  1. 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene is made in a two-step process in the laboratory. To nitrate toluene to a mixture of mono- and di-nitrotoluene isomers, a nitrating mixture of concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids is used, with careful cooling to preserve temperature. 

  2. The nitrated toluenes are isolated, washed with dilute sodium bicarbonate to remove nitrogen oxides, and then nitrated with a fuming nitric acid and sulfuric acid mixture.

Trinitrotoluene Uses

TNT Bomb

  •  Trinitrotoluene is used as a type of explosive that is widely used in military, automotive, and mining applications. TNT has been combined with hydraulic drilling, a technique for extracting oil and gas from shale formations. The method involves displacing and detonating nitroglycerin in hydraulically induced fractures, then firing pelletized TNT into the wellbore.

  • TNT is valued for its resistance to shock and friction, as well as its lower chance of unintended detonation when opposed to more sensitive explosives like nitroglycerin. TNT melts at 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit), which is much lower than the temperature at which it can spontaneously detonate, allowing it to be poured or safely mixed with other explosives. TNT does not absorb or dissolve in water, making it suitable for use in wet environments. TNT must be ignited by a pressure wave from a starter explosive, known as an explosive booster, to detonate.

Toxicity of Trinitrotoluene

TNT is toxic, and coming into contact with it can cause skin irritation and bright yellow-orange coloration. Anemia and irregular liver functions are common in people who have been exposed to TNT for a long time. Animals who consumed or breathed trinitrotoluene had blood and liver effects, spleen enlargement, and other immune system-damaging effects. TNT has been shown to have a negative impact on male fertility.TNT is listed as a possible human carcinogen, with carcinogenic effects seen in animal experiments with rats but no effects on humans so far (according to IRIS of March 15, 2000). TNT consumption results in red urine due to the presence of breakdown products, not blood, as is commonly assumed.

Did You Know?

Pink water and red water are two separate types of trinitrotoluene-related wastewater (TNT). Pink water is created by washing equipment after munitions filling or demilitarisation operations, and it is saturated with the maximum amount of TNT that will dissolve in water (roughly 150 parts per million) (ppm). However, it has an indefinite composition that is based on the exact process; for example, if the plant uses TNT/RDX mixtures, it can also contain cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX), or HMX if TNT/HMX is used. During the purification of crude TNT, red water is made. It has a complex composition of over a dozen aromatic compounds, but inorganic salts (sodium sulfite, sulfate, nitrite, and nitrate) and sulfonated nitroaromatics are the main components.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question: Why is TNT so Dangerous?

TNT is explosive as it is highly flammable. The elements carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen make up TNT. When TNT bursts, it produces several stable covalent gases, including CO, CO2, and N2. A lot of energy is released in the creation of these very low energy (stable) bonds.

Question: Is Trinitrotoluene harmful to Your Health?

Anaemia, irregular liver function, skin irritation, and cataracts have all been documented in people exposed to 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene. At least 20 of the 1,430 National Priorities List sites listed by the Environmental Protection Agency contained this substance.

Question: What is Trinitrotoluene made of?

TNT is an odourless, yellow solid that does not exist naturally in nature. Toluene is combined with a combination of nitric and sulfuric acids to make it. It is a crystalline solid at room temperature and is a highly explosive single-ring nitroaromatic compound.