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Water acts as catalyst in explosives
Date:3/20/2009

water transport oxygen from nitrogen storage to carbon fuel under PETN detonation conditions (temperatures between 3,000 Kelvin and 4,200 Kelvin). Under both temperature conditions, this "extreme water" served both as an end product and as a key chemical catalyst.

For a molecular high explosive that is made up of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen, such as PETN, the three major gaseous products are water, carbon dioxide and molecular nitrogen.

But to date, the chemical processes leading to these stable compounds are not well understood.

The team found that nitrogen loses its oxygen mostly to hydrogen, not to carbon, even after the concentration of water reaches equilibrium. They also found that carbon atoms capture oxygen mostly from hydroxide, rather than directly from nitrogen monoxide (NO) or nitrogen dioxide (NO_). Meanwhile water disassociated and recombines with hydrogen and hydroxide frequently.

"The water that comes out is part of the energy release mechanism," Wu said. "This catalytic mechanism is completely different from previously proposed decomposition mechanisms for PETN or similar explosives, in which water is just an end product. This new discovery could have implications for scientists studying the interiors of Uranus and Neptune where water is in an extreme form."


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Contact: Anne Stark
stark8@llnl.gov
925-422-9799
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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