Nitro compounds have had a huge impact on history. They are behind almost everything that goes “bang” or “boom.” This includes everything from gunpowder to TNT to bombs. They have been used to wage war, make explosive displays in the night sky, and move mountains.
Nitro compounds have been around for thousands of years, originally in the form of gunpowder in ancient China, Arabia, and India. It was first used in fireworks and was not used as a weapon until the middle of the eleventh century. Eventually, the compound nitroglycerin was invented and was heavily used in the mining industry. Unfortunately, it was also extremely unstable, and would explode if heated or even just struck with a hammer. A man by the name of Alfred Noble sought to solve this problem. His solution was known as dynamite. His invention revolutionized the modern mining industry.
Explosives go boom because of a group known as a nitro group (NO2) that is present in a compound. These groups are critical because in order for an explosion to occur, the combustion reaction needs to be extremely rapid. The nitro groups provide the oxygen needed because the oxygen in the air is not available quickly enough. When the reaction happens, a shockwave is produced by the gases that are produced expanding outwards. This shockwave can travel as fast as six thousand meters per second and is what gives explosives their devastating effects. However, the arrangement of the nitro group in the molecule is what really determines how it will act. For instance, p-nitrotoluene and p-aminobenzoic acid have the exact formula of C7H7NO2, but the placement of the nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the molecule are different, resulting in p-nitrotoluene being explosive, while p-aminobenzoic acid is not explosive and often used is sunscreens.
I think that the authors did an exceptional job on this chapter. The historical connections and facts were well-founded and made sense. This chapter also intrigued me more than the others, and I was fascinated about how it works. I especially agreed with the point they made on the importance of nitro compounds in World War I. The authors did an overall very solid job on this chapter.