A Compound So Sensitive that the Footprints of a Fly Can Make it Explode!

   

Chemistry brings us so many of life’s modern conveniences, products and processes. Chemical engineering is a mainstream profession that is vitally important to our economy and lifestyle. Modern chemistry also brings us things that we do not need like designer street drugs and carcinogenic materials that find their way into our food and water supply.

Slowmotion video of a contact explosion

Slowmotion video of a contact explosion

Chemistry science also bring us things that are dangerous but necessary such as explosives. Explosives release chemical energy rapidly as the material changes properties and changes state. In order to be useful and safe enough to have a purpose, a compound needs to be stable until we want it to destabilize and explode. TNT and dynamite are examples of compounds that generally only explode when you want them to.

The highly unstable nitrogen tri-iodide molecule

The highly unstable nitrogen tri-iodide molecule

Nitroglycerin is an example of a compound that is just too unstable to use in that form. Nitrogen Triiodide is another and in this video you will see what I mean. The Nitrogen triiodide molecule as explained in the video is a nitrogen atom with three iodide molecules stuck to one side in a very asymmetrical way, sort of crammed together. This cramming makes the combination very unstable, such even the footprints of a fly can cause it to explode.

And Explode it does!