Dynamite

Dynamite

Overview
Dynamite is an explosive material
Explosive material
An explosive material, also called an explosive, is a reactive substance that contains a great amount of potential energy that can produce an explosion if released suddenly, usually accompanied by the production of light, heat, sound, and pressure...

 based on nitroglycerin, initially using diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth also known as diatomite or kieselgur/kieselguhr, is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. It has a particle size ranging from less than 1 micrometre to more than 1 millimetre, but typically 10 to...

 (kieselgur: American spelling; kieselguhr: British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 spelling), or another absorbent substance such as powdered shells, clay, sawdust, or wood pulp. Dynamites using organic materials such as sawdust are less stable and such use has been generally discontinued. Dynamite was invented by the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. He is the inventor of dynamite. Nobel also owned Bofors, which he had redirected from its previous role as primarily an iron and steel producer to a major manufacturer of cannon and other armaments...

 in Krümmel (Geesthacht, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany), and patented in 1867.
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Encyclopedia
Dynamite is an explosive material
Explosive material
An explosive material, also called an explosive, is a reactive substance that contains a great amount of potential energy that can produce an explosion if released suddenly, usually accompanied by the production of light, heat, sound, and pressure...

 based on nitroglycerin, initially using diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth also known as diatomite or kieselgur/kieselguhr, is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. It has a particle size ranging from less than 1 micrometre to more than 1 millimetre, but typically 10 to...

 (kieselgur: American spelling; kieselguhr: British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 spelling), or another absorbent substance such as powdered shells, clay, sawdust, or wood pulp. Dynamites using organic materials such as sawdust are less stable and such use has been generally discontinued. Dynamite was invented by the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. He is the inventor of dynamite. Nobel also owned Bofors, which he had redirected from its previous role as primarily an iron and steel producer to a major manufacturer of cannon and other armaments...

 in Krümmel (Geesthacht, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany), and patented in 1867. Its name is derived from Greek roots that literally mean "connected with power."

Dynamite is usually sold in the form of sticks about 8 in (20 cm) long and about 1.25 in (3.2 cm) in diameter, with a weight of about 0.5 lb (0.226796185 kg). Other sizes also exist. The maximum shelf life of nitroglycerin-based dynamite is recommended as one year from the date of manufacture under good storage conditions.

Dynamite is a high explosive, which means it detonates
Detonation
Detonation involves a supersonic exothermic front accelerating through a medium that eventually drives a shock front propagating directly in front of it. Detonations are observed in both conventional solid and liquid explosives, as well as in reactive gases...

 rather than deflagrates
Deflagration
Deflagration is a term describing subsonic combustion that usually propagates through thermal conductivity; hot burning material heats the next layer of cold material and ignites it. Most "fire" found in daily life, from flames to explosions, is deflagration...

. While trinitrotoluene is used as the standard for gauging explosive power
TNT equivalent
TNT equivalent is a method of quantifying the energy released in explosions. The ton of TNT is a unit of energy equal to 4.184 gigajoules, which is approximately the amount of energy released in the detonation of one ton of TNT...

, dynamite has more than a 60% greater energy density than TNT.

Another form of dynamite consists of nitroglycerin dissolved in nitrocellulose
Nitrocellulose
Nitrocellulose is a highly flammable compound formed by nitrating cellulose through exposure to nitric acid or another powerful nitrating agent. When used as a propellant or low-order explosive, it is also known as guncotton...

 and a small amount of ketone
Ketone
In organic chemistry, a ketone is an organic compound with the structure RCR', where R and R' can be a variety of atoms and groups of atoms. It features a carbonyl group bonded to two other carbon atoms. Many ketones are known and many are of great importance in industry and in biology...

. This form of dynamite is similar to cordite
Cordite
Cordite is a family of smokeless propellants developed and produced in the United Kingdom from 1889 to replace gunpowder as a military propellant. Like gunpowder, cordite is classified as a low explosive because of its slow burning rates and consequently low brisance...

, and is much safer than the simple mix of nitroglycerin and diatomaceous earth. Military dynamite achieves greater stability by avoiding the use of nitroglycerin and uses much more stable chemicals. Public knowledge of dynamite led to metaphor
Metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

ic uses, such as saying that a particular issue "is political dynamite" (for example at this link).


Uses


Dynamite is mainly used in the mining
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

, quarrying, construction
Construction
In the fields of architecture and civil engineering, construction is a process that consists of the building or assembling of infrastructure. Far from being a single activity, large scale construction is a feat of human multitasking...

, and demolition
Demolition
Demolition is the tearing-down of buildings and other structures, the opposite of construction. Demolition contrasts with deconstruction, which involves taking a building apart while carefully preserving valuable elements for re-use....

 industries, and it has had some historical usage in warfare. However the unstable nature of nitroglycerin, especially if subjected to freezing, has rendered it obsolete for military uses.

History

cheesington.
Dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel
Alfred Nobel
Alfred Bernhard Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. He is the inventor of dynamite. Nobel also owned Bofors, which he had redirected from its previous role as primarily an iron and steel producer to a major manufacturer of cannon and other armaments...

 and was the first safely manageable explosive stronger than black powder. Nobel obtained patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

s for his invention: in England on 7 May 1867 and in Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 on 19 October 1867. He originally sold dynamite as "Nobel's Blasting Powder". After its introduction, dynamite rapidly gained wide-scale use as a safe alternative to gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 and nitroglycerin. Nobel tightly controlled the patents, and unlicensed duplicating companies were quickly shut down. However, a few American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 businessmen got around the patent by using a slightly different formula. The invention was celebrated by anarchists
Anarchism
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

, who recognized its suitability for propaganda by the deed.

Manufacture


Classic dynamite consists of three parts nitroglycerin, one part diatomaceous earth and a small admixture of sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate , Na2CO3 is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. It most commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate, which readily effloresces to form a white powder, the monohydrate. Sodium carbonate is domestically well-known for its everyday use as a water softener. It can be extracted from the...

. This mixture is formed into short sticks and wrapped in paper. Nitroglycerin by itself is a very strong explosive, and in its pure form it is extremely shock-sensitive. (That is, physical shock can cause it to explode.), degrading over time to even more unstable forms. This makes it highly dangerous to transport or use in its pure form. Absorbed into diatomaceous earth or more commonly sawdust, nitroglycerin is less shock-sensitive. Over time, the dynamite will "weep" or "sweat" its nitroglycerin, which can then pool in the bottom of the box or storage area. (For that reason, explosive manuals recommend the repeated turning over boxes of dynamite in storage.) Crystals will form on the outside of the sticks causing them to be even more shock, friction or temperature sensitive. This creates a very dangerous situation. While the actual possibility of explosion without a blasting cap
Blasting cap
A blasting cap is a small sensitive primary explosive device generally used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less sensitive secondary explosive such as TNT, dynamite, or plastic explosive....

 is minimal, old dynamite is still dangerous.

South Africa


For several decades beginning in the 1940s, the largest producer of dynamite in the world was the Republic of South Africa. There the De Beers
De Beers
De Beers is a family of companies that dominate the diamond, diamond mining, diamond trading and industrial diamond manufacturing sectors. De Beers is active in every category of industrial diamond mining: open-pit, underground, large-scale alluvial, coastal and deep sea...

 company established a factory in 1902 at Somerset West. The explosives factory was later operated by AECI
AECI
AECI Limited is a South African chemicals group and is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange.-History:The company was registered as African Explosives and Chemical Industries in 1924, with its headquarters in Johannesburg...

 (African Explosives and Chemical Industries). The demand for the product came mainly from the country's vast gold mines, centered on the Witwatersrand
Witwatersrand
The Witwatersrand is a low, sedimentary range of hills, at an elevation of 1700–1800 metres above sea-level, which runs in an east-west direction through Gauteng in South Africa. The word in Afrikaans means "the ridge of white waters". Geologically it is complex, but the principal formations...

. The factory at Somerset West was in operation in 1903 and by 1907 it was already producing 340,000 cases [22 kilograms (50 pounds) each] annually. In addition, a rival factory at Modderfontein was producing another 200,000 cases per year.

One of the drawbacks of dynamite was that it was dangerous to manufacture. There were two large explosions at the Somerset West plant during the 1960s. Some workers died, but the loss of life was limited by the modular design of the factory and its earth works, and the planting of trees that directed the blasts upward. There were also several less notable but still newsworthy explosions at the Modderfontein factory. After 1985, pressure from trade unions forced AECI to phase out the production of dynamite. The factory then went on to produce ammonium nitrate emulsion-based explosives that are far safer to manufacture and to handle.

United States



In the United States, in 1885, the chemist Russell S. Penniman invented "ammonium dynamite", a form of explosive that used ammonium nitrate as a substitute for the more costly nitroglycerin. These dynamites were marketed with the trade name "Extra". Ammonium nitrate contains 85% of the chemical energy
Chemical energy
Chemical energy is the potential of a chemical substance to undergo a transformation through a chemical reaction or, to transform other chemical substances...

 of nitroglycerin. Dynamite was manufactured by the E. I du Pont de Nemours Company
E. I du Pont de Nemours Company
E. I du Pont de Nemours Company was the holding company formed in the early 1900s by T. Coleman du Pont, Alfred I. du Pont and Pierre S. du Pont to save the family business from being bought out by a rival....

 until the mid-1970s. Other American dynamite makers of that time period included the Hercules Corporation
Hercules, California
Hercules is a city in western Contra Costa County, California. Situated along the coast of San Pablo Bay, it is located in the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area, about northeast of San Francisco. The city has a 2010 population of 24,060 according to the U.S...

, Atlas, Trojan-US Powder, Austin, and several other smaller firms. Dynamite has been mostly phased out in favor of water gel explosive
Water gel explosive
A water-gel is a fuel sensitized explosive mixture that consisting of an aqueous ammonium nitrate solution that acts as the oxidizer. Water gels that are cap-insensitive are not strictly explosives and are referred to as blasting agents....

s, which are cheaper to manufacture, and in many ways are safer to handle.

Difference from TNT


It is a common misconception that trinitrotoluene (TNT) and dynamite are the same thing, or that dynamite contains TNT. Though both substances are high explosives, there is little similarity between them. Dynamite is an absorbent mixture soaked in nitroglycerin then compacted into a cylindrical shape and wrapped in paper. TNT is a specific chemical compound called 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene. (Military dynamite is a dynamite substitute, also formulated without nitroglycerin, containing 75% RDX
RDX
RDX, an initialism for Research Department Explosive, is an explosive nitroamine widely used in military and industrial applications. It was developed as an explosive which was more powerful than TNT, and it saw wide use in WWII. RDX is also known as cyclonite, hexogen , and T4...

, 15% TNT, 5% SAE 10 motor oil, and 5% cornstarch to be the equivalent of dynamite composed of 60% nitroglycerin, but much safer to store and handle.)

A stick of dynamite contains roughly 2.1 MJ
Joule
The joule ; symbol J) is a derived unit of energy or work in the International System of Units. It is equal to the energy expended in applying a force of one newton through a distance of one metre , or in passing an electric current of one ampere through a resistance of one ohm for one second...

 of energy. The energy density (joule
Joule
The joule ; symbol J) is a derived unit of energy or work in the International System of Units. It is equal to the energy expended in applying a force of one newton through a distance of one metre , or in passing an electric current of one ampere through a resistance of one ohm for one second...

s/kilogram
Kilogram
The kilogram or kilogramme , also known as the kilo, is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units and is defined as being equal to the mass of the International Prototype Kilogram , which is almost exactly equal to the mass of one liter of water...

 or J/kg) of dynamite is approximately 7.5 MJ/kg, compared to 4.7 MJ/kg of TNT.

See also

  • Nitroglycerin
  • Nobel Prize
    Nobel Prize
    The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

  • Titadine
    Titadine
    Titadyn 30 AG is a type of compressed dynamite used in mining and manufactured in southern France by Titanite S.A. The explosive comes in the form of salmon-coloured tubes of a range of diameters, from 50 to 120 mm...

  • TNT
  • Tovex
    Tovex
    Tovex is a water-gel explosive composed of ammonium nitrate and methylammonium nitrate that has several advantages over traditional dynamite, including lower toxicity and safer manufacture, transport, and storage...


Sources

  • Cartwright, A. P. (1964). The Dynamite Company: The Story of African Explosives and Chemical Industries Limited. Cape Town: Purnell & Sons (S.A.) (Pty) Ltd.
  • Schück, H. and Sohlman, R.(1929). The Life of Alfred Nobel. London: William Heinemann Ltd.

External links