A little info on nitro
This may not be everything you ever wanted to know about nitro but its a great start.
Nitromethane is one of a group of chemicals known as nitroalkanes, which consist of an alkane molecule, such as methane, ethane, or propane, in which one of the hydrogen atoms has been replaced by a nitro group (-NO2). Nitromethane is used in a number of products, including fuels, explosives, solvents, preservatives, and pharmaceuticals. Angus's nitromethane production process results in the joint production of four nitroalkanes, of which nitromethane has the highest value.
Standard Nitromethane (CH3NO2) becomes Di-Nitromethane when exposed to UV (Ultra Violet rays as from the sun or "other means") and is more entertaining to run. All commercially available Nitromethane is never available at 100%. Some agreement with the ICC. It is typically cut (reduced in concentration) by approximately 2% or so with Benzene or "other" agents. Besides, 100% won't light very well without being cut with something. Back in the old days, some few folks were indeed getting hold of REAL 100% (from other than normal suppliers) and cut the load by 2% with spectrophotometric benzene (not your normal get it anywhere Benzene).
Comments about purple nitro: Potassium Permanganate (KMnO4) can be mixed and although a slurry, can be burned with either methanol or nitromethane, or nitropropane. Also one can add methyl purple (no gain, just fun coloring), methyl orange, or methyl blue. You can even add oil of wintergreen if you wish.
Like an atomic device, the separate components of a fission-fusion device are relatively benign, but when a special set of artificial conditions is created it will produce a dramatic result. Nitromethane is the atomic equivalent of uranium 238. Getting it to burn is a major problem, it needs lots of heat. But once the correct temperature is achieved, it will give more energy than most people can use.
A match will not light nitromethane. Dropped into a pool of nitro spillage floor, the match will sizzle and extinguish just as if it had fallen in a pool of tap water. But take a hammer and hit the pool - it will explode. The small amount of fuel caught between the hammer face and the concrete floor will become unstable and cause a spontaneous fire which occurs quickly enough to be labeled an explosion. The tiny bit of lit fuel is hot enough to set off the rest. And bigger the pool, the bigger the explosion. Enough nitro and the result will be a good-sized crater in the cement floor.
Joe Fette, a former vice president and general manager of Angus Chemical, worked intimately with the nitromethane departments, and remembers when the discovery was made. "The condition first came about by accident," says Fette. "Luckily, it was an accident where nobody was killed. But nitromethane used to be shipped in tank cars before this condition was known. Two separate accidents within a year of each other stopped that. The tank cars exploded, leaving holes 800ft wide and 300ft deep. Luckily, these were out in unpopulated areas. What happened is that the fuel was compressed when it slammed into the other car (as the train crashed). There were also rumors of power lines being around, although that was never proven."
Regardless of an external spark, the impact had sufficient force to begin the reaction that would ignite the explosive. The liquid, trapped inside the tanks, had nowhere to go and compressed itself. Under those circumstances it detonated by itself - at least in the corner of the container that suffered the largest degree of compression. With the initial explosion, extreme heat - the second factor that contributes to nitromethane's instability - was already building up. With nowhere to go the heat spread through the compressed fuel in the tanker, setting the entire railroad car on fire before the structure had been punctured. The result was an explosion that changed the land's geography".
The Chinese nitro is still being made in China at a specially constructed plant. It is imported to the US by Wego Chemical Company in NY. It is made by a different process than the Angus (now Dow Chemical as of 2 or 3 years ago) nitro. A test was done on the three nitro products that were available in 1996 and they found the Chinese nitro to be more pure than the Angus nitro, and much more pure than the product that VP was selling at the time. Those results may not hold up now, but they were accurate at the time the products were tested.
Nitromethane CH 3NO 2 CAS Reg. No. 75-52-5 EINECS No. 200-87-66
Nitromethane, if not properly handled, stored, or used, can be dangerous and can detonate. Nitromethane should only be handled, stored, or used by trained personnel who fully understand nitromethane properties and have read and understand this data sheet.
Nitromethane (NM) is a versatile chemical with a wide variety of industrial applications. It is used as a stabilizer for halogenated hydrocarbons, as a component of special fuels for internal combustion engines, as a solvent for polymers in coating, and as an synthesis of many useful chemicals such as chloropicrin and tris (hydroxymethyl) aminomethane.
Nitromethane was first prepared in 1872 by Kolbe, and for many years was considered to be very stable compound. It was not until 1938 that McKittrick and coworkers reported nitromethane could be detonated under conditions of strong confinement.
The characteristics of nitromethane have been studied by agencies such as the U.S. Army Chemical Corps and the California Institute of Technology. These studies have identified three conditions under which nitromethane can be detonated:
(A) A very sever shock, in excess of that provided by a No. 8 blasting cap can initiate detonation;
(B) Server and very rapid compression under adiabatic conditions can cause detonation;
(C) Liquid nitromethane can be detonated when heated under confinement to near its critical temperature.
Sensitization of nitromethane will increase the ease of initiation of detonation by all of these mechanisms. Nitromethane is sensitized by addition of a few percent of certain compounds, particularly amines, or by elevated temperatures.