Lead azide

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Lead azide, Pb(N3)2 is an explosive salt of hydrazoic acid, HN3. The compound is white, has a nitrogen content of 28.86 percent and a molecular weight of 291.26. [1] It is probably the the most common modern primary or initiating explosive, representing a good compromise among initiators with respect to storage stability, impact sensitivity, and tertiary explosives it can detonate without a booster. There are several variants of mechanical properties and additives for different explosive applications.


Its most important danger is as an explosive. When appreciable quantities are in a fire, the main firefighting recommendation is not to try to extinguish the fire, but to let it burn and possibly explode, and protect adjacent structures. Fragments can be thrown 1600 meters (one mile) or more. Temperatures of 350 degrees Celsius alone can cause explosion, and shock can do so at much lower temperatures. While insoluble in water, it is a strong reducing agent, can react violently with carbon disulfide, and be sensitized to explosive decomposition by metal salts (copper or zinc) or by traces of strong acids. [2]

Explosive properties

  • Brisance of dextrinated lead azide: 0.4


  1. Military Explosives, U.S. Department of the Army, September 1984, TM 9-1300-214, pp. 7-1 to 7-5
  2. CAMEO Chemicals: lead azide, Office of Response and Restoration, National Oceanographic and Environmental Administration