Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Trinitrotoluene (TNT) is a pale yellow crystalline aromatic hydrocarbon compound that melts at 81 C (178 F). Trinitrotoluene is an explosive chemical and a part of many explosive mixtures, such as when mixed with ammonium nitrate to form amatol. It is prepared by the nitration of toluene (C6H5CH3), it has a chemical formula of C6H2(NO2)3CH3, and IUPAC name 2,4,6-trinitromethylbenzene.

TNT was invented in 1863 by Joseph Wilbrand.

In its refined form, Trinitrotoluene is fairly stable, and unlike nitroglycerin, it is relatively insensitive to friction, blows or jarring. This means that it must be set off by a detonator. It does not react with metals or absorb water, and so is very stable for storage over long periods of time, unlike dynamite. But it is readily acted upon by alkalis to form unstable compounds that are very sensitive to heat and impact.

The specific combustion energy of TNT is 4.6 MJ/kg, hence 1 kt TNT = 4.6 TJ (terajoule), 1 Mt TNT = 4.6 PJ (petajoule).

Note that non-nuclear explosives release less energy per kilogram than everyday household products like fat (38 MJ/kg) or sugar (17 MJ/kg); they do, however, release their combustion energy much more rapidly.

Many military testing grounds are contaminated with TNT. People who are exposed to high doses of TNT tend to experience anemia and abnormal liver functions. Similar blood and liver effects, spleen enlargement and other harmful effects on the immune system were found in animals that ingested or breathed trinitrotoluene. There are also reports of skin irritation after being exposed. There is evidence that TNT affects the male fertility, and TNT is listed as a possible human carcinogen. Consumption of TNT produces black urine.

See also