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An explosion is a rapid increase in volume and release of energy in an extreme manner, usually with the generation of high temperatures and the release of gases. Supersonic explosions created by high explosives are known as detonations and travel via supersonic shock waves. Subsonic explosions are created by low explosives through a slower burning process known as deflagration. When caused by a man-made device such as an exploding rocket or firework, the audio component of an explosion is referred to as its "report" (which can also be used as a verb, i.e., "the rocket reported loudly upon impact".)
The most common artificial explosives are chemical explosives, usually involving a rapid and violent oxidation reaction that produces large amounts of hot gas. Gunpowder was the first explosive to be discovered and put to use. Other notable early developments in chemical explosive technology were Frederick Augustus Abel's development of nitrocellulose in 1865 and Alfred Nobel's invention of dynamite in 1866. Chemical explosions (both intentional and accidental) are often initiated by an electric spark or flame. Accidental explosions may occur in fuel tanks, rocket engines, etc.
Properties of explosions
Explosive force is released in a direction perpendicular to the surface of the explosive. If the surface is cut or shaped, the explosive forces can be focused to produce a greater local effect; this is known as a shaped charge.
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The speed of the reaction is what distinguishes the explosive reaction from an ordinary combustion reaction . Unless the reaction occurs rapidly, the thermally expanded gases will be dissipated in the medium, and there will be no explosion. Again, consider a wood or coal fire. As the fire burns, there is the evolution of heat and the formation of gases, but neither is liberated rapidly enough to cause an explosion. This can be likened to the difference between the energy discharge of a battery, which is slow, and that of a flash capacitor like that in a camera flash, which releases its energy all at once.
Evolution of heat
The generation of heat in large quantities accompanies most explosive chemical reactions. The exceptions are called entropic explosives and include organic peroxides such as acetone peroxide It is the rapid liberation of heat that causes the gaseous products of most explosive reactions to expand and generate high pressures. This rapid generation of high pressures of the released gas constitutes the explosion. The liberation of heat with insufficient rapidity will not cause an explosion. For example, although a unit mass of coal yields five times as much heat as a unit mass of nitroglycerin, the coal cannot be used as an explosive (except in the form of coal dust) because the rate at which it yields this heat is quite slow. In fact, a substance which burns less rapidly (i.e. slow combustion) may actually evolve more total heat than an explosive which detonates rapidly (i.e. fast combustion). In the former, slow combustion converts more of the internal energy (i.e. chemical potential) of the burning substance into heat released to the surroundings, while in the latter, fast combustion (i.e. detonation) instead converts more internal energy into work on the surroundings (i.e. less internal energy converted into heat); c.f. heat and work (thermodynamics) are equivalent forms of energy. See Heat of Combustion for a more thorough treatment of this topic.
When a chemical compound is formed from its constituents, heat may either be absorbed or released. The quantity of heat absorbed or given off during transformation is called the heat of formation. Heats of formations for solids and gases found in explosive reactions have been determined for a temperature of 25 °C and atmospheric pressure, and are normally given in units of kilojoules per gram-molecule. A negative value indicates that heat is absorbed during the formation of the compound from its elements; such a reaction is called an endothermic reaction. In explosive technology only materials that are exothermic—that have a net liberation of heat—are of interest. Reaction heat is measured under conditions either of constant pressure or constant volume. It is this heat of reaction that may be properly expressed as the "heat of explosion."
Initiation of reaction
A chemical explosive is a compound or mixture which, upon the application of heat or shock, decomposes or rearranges with extreme rapidity, yielding much gas and heat. Many substances not ordinarily classed as explosives may do one, or even two, of these things.
A reaction must be capable of being initiated by the application of shock, heat, or a catalyst (in the case of some explosive chemical reactions) to a small portion of the mass of the explosive material. A material in which the first three factors exist cannot be accepted as an explosive unless the reaction can be made to occur when needed.
Fragmentation is the accumulation and projection of particles as the result of a high explosives detonation. Fragments could be part of a structure such as a magazine. High velocity, low angle fragments can travel hundreds or thousands of feet with enough energy to initiate other surrounding high explosive items, injure or kill personnel and damage vehicles or structures.
Use in war
- Artillery, mortars, and cannons
- Gunpowder and smokeless powder as a propellant in firearms and artillery
- Missiles, rockets, and torpedoes
- Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- Land mines, naval mines, and IEDs
- Satchel charges and sapping
- Hand grenades
- Mount St. Helens
- Mount Tambora
- Mount Pinatubo
- Toba catastrophe theory
- Yellowstone Caldera
|Look up explosion in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Look up explode in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Dust explosion
- Explosion protection
- Explosive limit
- Fuel tank explosion
- Implosion (mechanical process)
- Internal combustion engine
- List of unexplained explosion events
- Mushroom cloud
- Piston engine
- Standards for electrical equipment in potentially explosive environments
- Underwater explosion
- Dubnikova, Faina; Kosloff, Ronnie; Almog, Joseph; Zeiri, Yehuda; Boese, Roland; Itzhaky, Harel; Alt, Aaron; Keinan, Ehud (2005-02-01). "Decomposition of Triacetone Triperoxide Is an Entropic Explosion". Journal of the American Chemical Society 127 (4): 1146–1159. doi:10.1021/ja0464903. PMID 15669854.