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Tnt 3d.pngTnt molecule.png
Systematic name 2-Methyl-1,3,5-trinitrobenzene
Other names 2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene, TNT, Trilite,
Tolite, Trinol, Trotyl,
Tritolo, Tritolol, Triton,
Tritone, Trotol,
Molecular formula C7H5N3O6
SMILES O=[N+]([O-])c1c(c(ccc1C)
Molar mass 227.13 g/mol227.13 amu
Appearance Pale yellow solid
CAS number 118-96-7
Density and phase 1.654 g/cm3, Solid
Solubility in water 0.13 g/L (20 °C)
Other solvents Ether, Acetone, Benzene, Pyridine
Melting point 80.35°C353.5 K
176.63 °F
636.3 °R
(176.63 °F; 353.50 K)
Boiling point 240.0 °C513.15 K
464 °F
923.67 °R
(464.0 °F; 513.1 K)
Dipole moment 1.37 D
Main hazards Explosive (E) Toxic (T)
Dangerous for the environment (N)
NFPA 704

NFPA 704 svg.png

Flash point 167 °C (333 °F; 440 K)
R/S statement R: R2, R23/24/25, R33, R51/53
S: (S1/2), S35, S45, S61
RTECS number XU0175000
Related compounds
Related compounds picric acid
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Disclaimer and references



Most often confused as being similar to dynamite, TNT is a chemical compound, while dynamite is a mixture of nitroglycerin and an absorbent agent such as sawdust.[1] It is known by it’s pale yellow color. It is extremely explosive, but also relatively stable. It is not produced commercially within the United States, but can be found in military arsenals.


Trinitrotoluene as it melts at 80.1 °C

Physical Properties

Trinitrotoluene is a pale yellow [2] crystalline solid at room temperature[3].It is completely odorless and can be either solid or in crushed flakes. It is known to be soluble in water (111mg/L at 23 °C). TNT, as it is also known, has a boiling point of 240 °C (464 °F), at which temperature it explodes, and a melting point of 80.1 °C (176 °F). TNT has a density of 1.65 g/cm3 and a vapor density of 7.85 (Air = 1).[2] Trinitrotoluene has a molecular weight of 227 g/mol.[4]

Chemical Properties

Trinitrotoluene is recognized as as a toxic substance. It is stable, [1] however, not reacting to friction or shock, but is highly explosive with a proper detonator.[3] Trinitrotoluene is insensitive enough to be poured in liquid form into casings[1], yet it reacts violently, with the risk of an explosion, with reducing agents, and also reacts with heavy metals.[5] There are several substances that TNT is incompatible with. All strong Oxidizers, Ammonia, strong alkalies,[4] combustible materials and heat are incongruous with Trinitrotoluene. Rapid heating is even known to cause explosions.[5]

Synthesis / Occurrences

TNT flakes

The production of Trinitrotoluene is a process of three steps.[1] It involves nitrating toluene with nitric acid and sulfuric acid. The basic process is to increase temperature and mixed-acid concentrations to cause nitro groups to form mononitrotoluene, dinitrotoluene and trinitrotoluene. The steps can be competed separately or in a continuous process.[6] The first step is to mix the nitrated toluene with the nitric and sulfuric acids, which produces the mononitrotoluene.

The next step is to remove the mononitrotoluene and nitrate again, after which dinitrotoluene is formed. The final step is to nitrate one more, and trinitrotoluene is produced.[1] An aqueous sodium sulfite solution is used[6] to remove isomers, which make the TNT more unstable.[1] Several other compounds are also formed throughout the process. TNT is not produced commercially in the U.S., only in military arsenals, and is purchased from the U.S. Army Armament Materiel Command.[6]


An explosion of 500 tons of TNT photographed by a U.S. Navy employee in Hawaii, February 6, 1965

The majority of TNT used in the United States is used by the Military for it’s own use. However, there is also a small percentage used for industrial functions.[2] Trinitrotoluene is, clearly, an explosive material. The earliest known use of TNT as a military explosive was in 1902. German Soldiers filled artillery shells with TNT, forming armor-piercing rounds that exploded after impact and after they had penetrated the armor. TNT is still a widely utilized explosive in the military and many different companies around the world. [1] It is still considered one of the top used high explosive used by the military. [3] It is used in bombs and grenades, as well as filling shells and airborne demolition bombs.[6] The Radford Army Ammunition Plant is the current leader in the U.S. for TNT production, producing the majority used by the military.[1]

TNT was originally utilized as a yellow dye in 1863,[7] and is also used as a reagent in chemical synthesis[1] and is used in the making of dyes and photographic chemicals.[6] It is used in the manufacture of munitions, [3] as a ure explosive, or in a binary mixture. The most common binary mxtures for TNT are cyclotols, octols, amatols and tritonals.[6] There are some companies, primarily demolition companies, that also use TNT in the United States. It is used to clear away debris in building foundations,[1] but also in deep well and underwater blasting.[6]

TNT vs. Dynamite

TNT in it's solid form.

Dynamite and TNT are often mistakenly used interchangeably for the same thing. Many believe that TNT is the chemical name and dynamite is simply the common name, however, these two explosives are completely different.

Dynamite is, essentially, a white powder.[8] wrapped in paper.[9] It was patented by Alfred Nobel in 1867. He was looking to find a way to make nitroglycerin more stable, and by combining the nitroglycerin with diatomaceous earth and sodium carbonate.He had his share of mishaps, however, including a factory explosion that killed his brother, Emil. [8] Although people assume that it contains TNT, it does not. It actually is an absorbent, nitroglycerin-soaked mixture. Because of this, it is extremely sensitive to shock. [9] Dynamite is highly explosive and detonates rapidly. TNT is far more stable and much lighter. Dynamite is also 60% denser than TNT. It is extremely difficult to transport because of its sensitivity and is unable to be used in it’s true form, needing to be kept in a mixture. Despite this fact, dynamite begins to sweat over time, releasing nitroglycerine which collects at the bottom of the container the dynamite is being store in. Because of this, it is common that the container be flipped during transportation. If the nitroglycerine were able to collect at the bottom of the container, crystals would begin to form and can offer a great deal of danger.[10]

TNT, on the other hand, was oiginally used as a yellow dye, but was used later on as an explosive because of a few convenience factors, including stability and safety.[9] The explosive form was discovered by German scientist Joseph Wilbrand in 1863. It is a high explosive, like dynamite is, but not as powerful, as well as being more difficult to detonate, which could be viewed as a pro or a con. It is far more stable than Dynamite, and is even able to be melted down in order to be poured into shel casings. However, despite being stable, it is highly toxic.[8] If it comes into contact with skin, irritation and discoloration can occur, with your skin turning yellowish orange. Longer exposure to TNT can lead to issues such as anemia, liver damage and spleen enlargement.[10]


The United States Navy simulated a nuclear explosion utilizing 500 tons (1,000,000 pounds) of TNT in Hawaii in 1965 in order to test the resilience of Navy ships.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Johnsams. Three Common High Explosives And Their Properties Hub-Pages. Web. Last Updated July 30, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Trinitrotoluene pubchem. Web. Accessed January 9, 2015. Unknown Author.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 technical-fact-sheet Environmental-Protection-Agency. Web. Published January 2014. Unknown Author.
  4. 4.0 4.1 2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene OSHA. Web. Accessed January 12, 2015. Author Unknown.
  5. 5.0 5.1 2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene Chem-Spider. Web. Accessed January 10, 2015. Unknown Author.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Author Unknown. Production-Import-Use-and-Disposal ASTDR. Web. Accessed January 9, 2015.
  7. Hiskey, Daven. TNT-was-originally-used-as-a-yellow-dye-not-to-make-bombs Today-I-Found-Out. Web. Accessed January 12, 2015.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 tnt-vs-dynamite-whats-the-difference Mental-Floss. Web. Published August 29, 2008. Unknown Author.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Hiskey, Daven. tnt-and-dynamite-are-not-the-same-thing Today-I-Found-Out. Web. Accessed January 25, 2015.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Kumar, Manisha [ difference-between-tnt-and-dynamite] Difference-Between. Web. Published October 30, 2009.
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