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Structural formula
of the fulminate ion

Fulminates are chemical compounds which include the fulminate ion. The fulminate ion, CNO
is a pseudohalic ion, acting like a halogen with its charge and reactivity. Due to the instability of the ion, fulminate salts are friction-sensitive explosives. The best known is mercury(II) fulminate, which has been used as a primary explosive in detonators. Fulminates can be formed from metals, such as silver and mercury, dissolved in nitric acid and reacted with ethanol. The weak single nitrogen-oxygen bond is responsible for their instability. Nitrogen very easily forms a stable triple bond to another nitrogen atom, forming nitrogen gas.

Historical notes[edit]

Fulminates were discovered by Edward Charles Howard in 1800.[1][2][3] The use of fulminates for firearms was first demonstrated by a Scottish minister, A. J. Forsyth, who patented his scent-bottle lock in 1807; this was a small container filled with fulminate of mercury.[4][5] Joshua Shaw determined how to encapsulate them in metal to form a percussion cap, but did not patent his invention until 1822.

In the 1820s, the organic chemist Justus Liebig discovered silver fulminate (Ag-CNO) and Friedrich Wöhler discovered silver cyanate (Ag-OCN). They have different properties but the same chemical composition, which led to an acrid dispute finally resolved by Jöns Jakob Berzelius concept of isomers.[6]


See also[edit]

English pronunciation of the word "fulminate"


  1. ^ Edward Howard (1800). "On a New Fulminating Mercury". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 90 (1): 204–238. doi:10.1098/rstl.1800.0012. 
  2. ^ F. Kurzer (1999). "The Life and Work of Edward Charles Howard". Annals of Science. 56 (2): 113–141. doi:10.1080/000337999296445. 
  3. ^ "Edward Charles Howard (1774-1816), Scientist and sugar refiner". National Portrait Gallery. 2005-01-05. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  4. ^ Alexander Forsyth in Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ "Rifled Breech Loader". Globalsecurity.org. 
  6. ^ Greenberg, Arthur (2000). A Chemical History Tour. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 198–203. ISBN 0-471-35408-2.