PowerLabs Oxalate Explosive Synthesis


Silver Oxalate, or Ethanodioic acid, silver salt, C2Ag2O4 is a chemical compound used in photographic emulsions. When I read on Merck Index that it would “Violently decompose at 140C”, I decided to synthesize some on my lab to evaluate its properties. As is often the case with Silver Explosives, the Mercury Counterpart also tends to be unstable. The synthesis of Mercury Oxalate was also attempted.




Silver Nitrate

250mL Glass beaker.

Oxalic Acid


Distilled Water (H2O(l))

Stirring Rod 

Absolute Ethanol Funnel/filter paper

Materials Required for Silver Oxalate synthesis  Here all the chemicals used in the synthesis are seen, from left to right, back to front: Distilled water, Silver Nitrate, Oxalic Acid, Absolute Ethanol, 50mL glass beaker, spatula, glass rod.

Oxalic Acid Solution

A solution of Oxalic Acid is prepared by dissolving 1 gram in 20ml of water (note that Oxalic Acid will dissolve 1g/7ml, but we are not looking for a saturated solution here).

Precipitated Silver Oxalate

One gram of Silver Nitrate is than added to the Oxalic Acid solution and the insoluble (1g/24000ml) Silver Oxalate precipitates as a white mass. Notice that exact proportions were not bothered with as the product is insoluble, and thus leftover reactants can be washed away.

 Dry Silver Oxalate

The Silver Oxalate is than filtered from solution, washed in Absolute Ethanol, and dried. it forms as a white powder of density 5.03, with a yield greater than 1.5 gram.

Silver Oxalate decomposing

The Oxalate decomposes from heating without flame and with the formation of a white cloud (presumably Silver Oxide, Water Vapor, CO2). It will explode mildly if heated under confinement.

Mercury Oxalate was synthesized in the same fashion, but did not decompose in a violent fashion. It is also said to be explosive, but it is far less sensitive than its Silver counterpart.