Nitrostarch

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The first true high explosive, first synthesized in 1833 by Henri Braconnot,[1] nitrostarch is of the family of aliphatic nitrate esters produced by replacing hydroxyl (-OH) groups in starch molecules with nitrate (-NO2) ions. Its empirical formula is C6H7OH X(ONO2)Y, where X+Y=2

It is closely related to nitrocellulose, other than nitrocellulose polymers are straight while nitrostarch is spiral, consisting of approximately 1,000 anyhdroglucose units. [2]

The manufacturing methods remain proprietary and often secretive, although they involve treating starch with nitric acid and sulfuric acid. It remains in commercial, but not military use, because it will not freeze as will nitroglycerin. More recently, it has been used in water-gel and slurry explosives.[3]

References

  1. Military Explosives, U.S. Department of the Army, September 1984, TM 9-1300-214, p. 2-5
  2. Military Explosives, p. 8-15
  3. Sohara, Joseph A. (1990), Nitrostarch emulsion explosives production process, United States Patent 4980000