PowerLabs Potassium Styphnate Synthesis


Similarly to Picric Acid (TriNitroPhenol), Styphnic Acid (TriNitroResorcinol) is explosive and prone to forming metal salts which are more sensitive than the original acid. Potassium Picrate is vastly more explosive than picric acid, detonating if ignited confined, but still only mildly explosive if compared to more practical low explosives. The second hydroxide ion on Styphnic Acid makes it more reactive and less stable than the more symmetric Trinitrophenol molecule (this becomes very obvious on flame tests, for example), so Potassium Styphnate should be more explosive than the picrate version of that explosive. Armed with this theory and no actual practical information on the explosive itself it was decided to attempt a synthesis in order to evaluate just exactly how the explosive behaved.




Potassium Carbonate (KCO3(s))

250mL Glass beaker.

Styphnic Acid (C6H3N3O8)


Distilled Water (H2O(l))

Stirring Rod 

Funnel/filter paper

  Here all the chemicals used in the synthesis are seen, from left to right, back to front: Distilled water, Potassium Carbonate, Styphnic Acid Solution, 50mL glass beaker, spatula, glass rod.


C6H3N3O7(aq) + KCO3(aq) => KC6H2N3O7(s) + CO2(g) [Heat of formation: +?? Cal/mole].

A saturated solution of Styphnic acid is prepared by dissolving the acid on hot (near boiling) water.

Potassium Carbonate is added to the mixture until no more CO2 is evolved and the pH tests neutral. The color goes from yellow to orange and some precipitate starts to form.

As the solution is cooled gradually to 0C, the potassium styphnate crystallizes out of it  forming a large mass of crystals. Yield can be maximized by boiling the solution to half of its original volume and than cooling it to 0C, at which temperature the greatest number of crystals form.

After washing and drying the crystals stick together in soft clumps, forming a mass slightly larger than what was started out with in Styphnic Acid. These crystals are mildly sensitive to impact and friction, and deflagrate violently from flame.


  The product deflagrates very violently when subjected to flame, forming a spectacular fireball in even small amounts, and releasing a mushroom cloud of smoke (Potassium Oxide, CO2, N2, Carbon sooth) in the process. It is only somewhat sensitive to impact or friction (requires a lot of force to go). 158k .mpg

C6H2N3O7K –> combustion–> 6 CO2 + 2 H2O + 0.5 K2O + 1.5 N2 [heat of combustion by “free oxygen” Hc of 2317.67 kcal/kg].