If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Simple synthesis produces environmentally friendly energetic material

DTAT-K could be an alternative to lead azide primary explosives

by Bethany Halford
March 23, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 10

The structure of DTAT-K.

Chemists looking to make explosives will often load their molecules with nitrogen atoms, which release energy as they break apart to form N2 and other small molecules. Researchers have now prepared the first example of a nitrogen-packed [5,6,5]-tricyclic bistetrazole-fused compound. The potassium salt of this molecule, which the researchers named DTAT-K, has properties that could make it an environmentally friendly primary explosive (ACS Cent. Sci. 2023, DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.3c00219).

Guangbin Cheng and Hongwei Yang at Nanjing University of Science and Technology and Chuan Xiao at Norinco led the researchers who discovered DTAT-K. The chemists were simply trying to substitute azides for the chlorides on 4,6-dichloro-5-nitropyrimidine—an inexpensive and commercially available starting material. But they were surprised to find that after the substitution occurred, the molecule spontaneously cyclized to form the [5,6,5]-tricyclic bistetrazole-fused motif and appended an additional azide group.

Swapping the sodium ion for potassium produced DTAT-K. The compound has detonation properties that are comparable to lead azide, a commonly used primary explosive that’s a source of heavy metal contamination at military training grounds. DTAT-K is safer to handle than lead azide, so it could be a replacement free of heavy metals.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.