Many chemicals have formulas that are very precise. When you change or alter them, even if by only a simple group, it can end in explosive results. The combination of a nitrogen atom and two oxygen atoms results in what is called a nitro group. When it is added at the right position, this group gives the structure it was added to an explosive capability. In reactions involving this group, gases are produced at such a fast rate, and also large amounts of heat and their characteristic destructive forces are created. The destruction normally exhibited after an explosion is due to the shockwave created by the rapid increase in the volume of the gases. The extremely stable N2 molecule is formed during the reactions, and their triple bond requires a large amount of energy to break them up, which it what is expected of an explosion. The oxygen is required in the nitro group because if not for it, the reaction would take place slowly, and the heat created would dissipate. Although there is oxygen in the atmosphere, it is not available to the nitrogen quickly enough, so the oxygen must come from within the molecule itself. The level of explosiveness in compounds containing a nitro group depends upon the number of nitro groups it contains. Nitrotoluene and dinitrotoluene can explode, however, they aren’t as explosive as the trinitrotoluene (TNT) molecule.
The origin of the world renowned Nobel Prize was derived from work done in the world of explosives. Alfred Bernard Nobel was a scientist that created dynamite. He did this by recognizing the potential of nitroglycerin, and understanding it’s instability. A material he used originally to soak up spilled nitroglycerin, kieselguhr, was the answer to stabilizing it. It diluted the nitroglycerin and slowed down the rate of their composition, which provided control over the explosive effect. He named the product Dynamite, and once he passed away, all of the money he made off of his invention was left to give yearly prizes in the advancement of chemistry, medicine, literature, physics, and peace.
Nitro groups have had a tremendous impact of the history of the world. From allowing countries to wage war against one another, to smoothing the way for construction of some of the greatest man made feats of all time. Gunpowder is where it all began. The first materials used for it were potassium nitrate, or Chinese snow, and wood charcoal. Their original use was only for fireworks and firecrackers, but as time evolved, so did gunpowder’s use. The first firearm was a tube made of iron that was loaded with gunpowder, which was then ignited by a heated wire. These mechanisms were used to create larger weapons and those were then used for war. TNT was the preferred choice of ammunition because it was harder to detonate, and was apt to penetrate armor. During World War I, another molecule containing nitrogen came into light: ammonia. British blockades prevented ships with Germany’s primary source of nitrates to get through, and Germany had to find another source of explosives. A scientist named Fritz Haber employed the use of nitrogen from the atmosphere to synthesize ammonia. That was then reacted with oxygen to form nitrogen dioxide, a precursor of nitric acid. The synthesis was also used food production by providing fertilizers, allowing a larger agricultural output.
Another purpose nitro groups serve is to treat medical issues, such as angina, maintaining blood pressure, acting as a messenger molecule carrying signals between cells, establishing long-term memory, and aiding in digestion. Explosives have also carved the way nations and countries were formed, by providing an advantage to countries seeking an imperialism or colonialism policy rule over other lands. They have also changed the way we are able to travel the land. Bridges, tunnels and canals could not be possible with out the utility of nitro groups. Some of the greatest man made creations in the world, like the Hoover dam, would have been impossible to construct. They also allow for mining of certain minerals that otherwise would remain unreachable. They have also been used with more lethal and harmful intentions. Deliberate bombings done by terrorists used ammonium nitrate bombs. A recent example would be of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York City, which resulted in the deaths of several innocent people.
I truly believe that nitro compounds have had a profound impact on the way the world works now. It is unfortunate, but one of the effects caused by explosives and guns is fear. If people fear you, immediately, you possess power over them. The world would still be using swords as the predominant way to threaten each other, and I honestly believe the world would be safer. Does that mean we would be better off in the end though? I do not think that would be true. Fireworks on the Forth of July would not be possible. Mountain travel would be hazardous. To get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, you would have to go all the way around the tip of South America. Life, I believe, would be terribly different.
The author’s argument makes sense, these compounds have given us the abilities to alter and manipulate the world around us. We are able to defend ourselves with firearms and preserve our rights to freedom through war.they have allowed us to feed the world’s population by creating fertilizers that increase agricultural output. The men of the world no longer have to deal with embarrassment from impotence; research in the field of nitric oxide, which is responsible for the dilation effect, led to the development of Viagra. The author acknowledges the dangers that these molecules present, but in the same light, reveals how they have changed the world for the better.