Issue Date: January 12, 2009
High-Nitrogen Anion Exceeds The Power Of RDX
In the quest for environmentally friendlier and more powerful explosives, researchers at Ludwig Maximilians University, in Munich, report the synthesis of a collection of azidotetrazolate (CN7–) salts that take a step toward both goals (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja8077522). Thomas M. Klapötke and Jörg Stierstorfer synthesized the CN7– anion by deprotonating 5-azido-1H-tetrazole. The new salts have the highest nitrogen content reported for tetrazolate compounds. For example, the hydrazinium salt, N2H5CN7, is 88.1% nitrogen by mass. These nitrogen-rich molecules are considered "greener" than traditional explosives because they generate fewer carbon-based by-products that can damage artillery gun barrels and the environment. The researchers' calculations indicate that N2H5CN7 has the highest detonation pressure and velocity of the new compounds—values that exceed those of the powerful explosive RDX. Although hydrogen bonds help render N2H5CN7 thermally stable at room temperature, the compound is still too sensitive to impact and friction for field use. Klapötke says adding a methyl group to the anion may reduce its sensitivity enough for it to be used safely.
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