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Uber Explosives

  1. Feb 22, 2005 #1
    This is for my Hard SF world so the questions aren't limited to today's technology level, just someday.

    How plausible is a plastic explosive 50 times more powerful than C4?
    Is C4 even the strongest chemical explosive per amount?
    What does the speed of the burning of the explosive have to do with it's power or does it not? What kind of burn and explosion speeds are we looking at here for a plastic explosive? So I can know how fast the weapons will work and what kind of speed they'll propel their bits of casing and shrapnel at.
    Could such an explosive be made where it wouldn't produce any dangerous chemicals while burning that would poison life and soil on my planet?

    Kind of weird questions I know but thanks for the help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2005 #2


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    C-4 is a particular formulation of the explosive cyclotrimethylenetrinitramie (aka RDX, cyclonite, hexogen). RDX has a high degree of stability in storage and is considered the most powerful and brisant of the military high explosives. C-4 is somewhat less powerful because the RDX is mixed in with other materials like plasticizers.

    HMX, also called octogen or cyclotetramethylene-tetranitramine, is a powerful, but shock sensitive, nitroamine high explosive, chemically related to RDX.

    Another powerful formulation is cyclotol (RDX + TNT), with formulations like 60/40 or 75/25 RDX/TNT. Cyclotols are used for loading shaped-charge bombs, special fragmentation projectiles, and grenades.

    HBX-1 and HBX-3 are binary explosives that are castable mixtures of RDX, TNT, powdered aluminum, and D-2 wax with calcium chloride. These explosives are used in missile warheads and underwater ordnance.

    More info at:




    It is doubtful that a chemical explosive could be developed that is 50 times more powerful than C-4. Perhaps 2-5 times. There is only so much volume to put in the nitro (ONO2, NO2) groups and other CHn groups, which react with the oxygen from the ONO2.
  4. Feb 22, 2005 #3
    Most powerful, non-nuclear explosive material known so far- octanitrocubane.
  5. Feb 28, 2005 #4
    How strong is it compared to a kilo of TNT? How does a kilo of C4 compare to a kilo of TNT? Is there a possibility that there are chemicals that can store potential energy much better than the ones you named? Why those chemicals? I don't understand much about explosives beyond they burn fast and hold a lot of potential energy stored in the chemical bonds.
  6. Mar 1, 2005 #5
    I've heard that Astrolite, which is a mixture of ammonium nitrate and hydrazine, is the "most powerful" chemical explosive. But it isn't much more potent than RDX. A friend of mine who is doing explosives research told me that the results with octanitrocubane have thus far been disappointing. The problem, it seems, is to synthesize it so it has its theoretically predicted density. Samples that have been made have been less dense, and thus, less powerful on a per weight basis. Something else...it's not always easy to define the "power" of an explosive. Total energy released, detonation velocity, and volume of gas released all contribute to the explosive effect. In the real world, power is often measured empirically, rather than calculated. Two common tests of explosive power are the "Trauzl block" test and the "ballistic pendulum" test. You might want to do a web search on those.
  7. Mar 1, 2005 #6


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    Power is a function of time, so by definition a faster burn has more power.

    Of course. Potassium nitrate burns organics to make gases like CO2, H2O, NO2, NO, N2O, and N2 (long shot?). CO2 is safe, H2O is water, NO2 is a strong oxidizer, NO is seemingly safe, N2O is laughing gas found in cans of whipped cream, and N2 already makes up 80% of the atmosphere.
  8. May 24, 2005 #7

    Any organic explosive releases these products. It is only the contaminants that cause pollutants. Pollutants such as aluminum oxide, lead, and hydrochloric acid, apparently, are released when HMX is detonated or burned, and these certainly don't come from the molecule itself. See http://www.nawcwpns.navy.mil/techtransfer/cradas/cl20pap.htm

    You want to remove them? Sure, you can, or you can try, but how? Centrifuge them out, or something? Good luck. If you survive, please come tell me how you did it. Or you could try stirring various things into it that will remove the aluminum, lead, and chlorine. Again, I will be surprised if you survive stirring HMX into anything. Unless you do it all by remote control robotic arm, in which case your robotic arm likely won't survive much better than you would. And it still doesn't give you pure HMX.
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