A nitro boost for solid oxides


Scientists in Germany have made tetranitratoethane (C2H2N4O12), a solid oxidiser with one of the highest oxygen contents ever synthesised. This research is part of an international search for new oxidisers to replace toxic ammonium perchlorate (NH4ClO4).

Though the compound's high oxygen content makes it a potential powerful oxidiser, it is also sensitive to friction and explosively decomposes

Oxidisers are materials that form molecules of oxygen when burned, in addition to regular combustion products H2O, N2, CO and CO2, and are described as having a positive oxygen balance. Tetranitratoethane, created by Thomas Klapötke and colleagues at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, has a higher oxygen content than other well-known solid oxidisers, and represents one of only a very few compounds where two or more oxygen-rich nitro (–NO2) groups are bonded to the same carbon atom.

With an oxygen content of 70.1% and a greater oxygen balance than ammonium perchlorate, tetranitratoethane is very sensitive to friction and impact, similar to nitroglycerine. Calculations of specific impulse from combustion, relevant to use as rocket fuel, indicate that tetranitratoethane theoretically performs better than ammonium perchlorate mixtures, amongst others.

However, although tetranitratoethane carries one of the highest oxygen contents ever synthesised, its low thermal stability and high sensitivity will likely prevent any immediate practical applications.

References

This article is free to access until 29 February 2016

D Fischer, T M Klapötke and J Stierstorfer, Chem. Commun., 2016, 52, 916 (DOI: 10.1039/c5cc09010e)


Related Content

Boom!

4 December 2014 Premium contentFeature

news image

High-energy compounds are needed to create more powerful and safer explosives. Sarah Houlton dons her hard hat to investigate

Saturn’s largest moon home to prebiotic ‘soup’

12 March 2014 Research

news image

Organics dissolved in Titan’s lakes may create conditions suitable for life

Most Commented

Ethanol to butanol conversion shows sustainable potential

13 January 2016 Research

news image

Borrowed hydrogen chemistry drives reaction to obtain useful fuel from biomass

Israeli chemists urge government to ban chemical weapons

21 July 2016 News and Analysis

news image

Open letter presses prime minister to ‘remove the curse of chemical weapons from the face of the Earth’