Explosive peroxides are amongst the greatest hazards a lab researcher can come across. Various chemical compounds, many of which are in daily usage in research institutes and industry, have a tendency to form explosive peroxides on storage. Certain compounds may do so after very short periods of time, or despite chemical stabilizers, whilst others will only do so under rare circumstances, but once the peroxides have formed all it can take is the action of unscrewing a cap, or dropping a bottle, and a powerful detonation will ensue which can – and has – cost the lives of many workers. Easily peroxidizeable chemicals should never be fully distilled for this exact reason.
It is a very unfortunate thing in my personal opinion that certain explosive peroxides may be so easy to synthesize in a home laboratory. Ultimately, anyone with a desire to make a bomb will be able to do so, regardless of technical expertize: Explosives are available to civilians who can come up with a “legitimate” excuse to buy them, and even 18 year olds can find gunpowder at their local Wallmart. With similar ease these persons may also acquire the chemicals required to synthesize something such as acetone peroxide, and will than proceed to, almost inevitably, hurt, maim, or kill themselves, not being familiar with the dangers and safety requirements of performing such a dangerous operation. Although PowerLabs doubts that this will change anyone’s minds about the subject, I would like to repeat that explosive peroxides are so dangerous that they are forbidden for transportation, and even professional chemists do not work with them: the bottom line is that there are many safer, cheaper, vastly more powerful alternatives out there which make explosive peroxides no more than something to avoid in a serious laboratory. Unfortunately for most amateurs explosive peroxides are the only explosive easy enough to synthesize, which makes it by far the most popular choice for wannabe teenage bomb makers to hurt themselves with.
For curiosity purposes only, here is some information on PowerLabs Explosive Peroxide research.
To the left all the ingredients used for this synthesis are seen. From left to right, on photo: Absolute Ethanol (99.6%), Hydrogen Peroxide (30%), Hexamine, Anhydrous Citric Acid (96%). In the foreground the beaker, spatula, and pipette can be seen.
Absolute Ethanol was chosen for the final product wash because it is more volatile than the distilled water used for the first few washes and thus reduces the product drying time in the vacuum desiccators.
The Hexamine in this synthesis was produced in the lab through the reaction of 24% Ammonium Hydroxide with Formol (37% Formaldehyde solution in water) in a cooled vessel and subsequently extracted by boiling off the excess water. This had to be done due to an unavailability of the product in the market at the time.
For the synthesis, mL of H2O2 was added to the beaker, along with grams of Citric acid and grams of Hexamine. The contents were stirred and the product was left refrigerated at 5C for hours.The solution becomes cloudy as a mass of white crystals precipitates out of it. These crystals are HMTD, or HexaMethyleneTriperoxiDiamine. They were filtered out and washed first with distilled water containing a small amount of sodium bicarbonate to neutralize excess citric acid (which can make the product even more unstable), then with distilled water and finally with absolute ethanol. After vacuum desiccation a white mass of crystals of appearan
The end product is EXCEEDINGLY unstable and dangerous, deflagrating in small amounts, and detonating from flame in larger amounts. Any impact of friction will set it off. HMTD is somewhat more sensitive to impact than TCPT, but both are very sensitive explosives.