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An Overview of Explosions and Impact of Explosives Materials

S. Gawande


An explosive is a material, either a pure single substance or a mixture of substances, which is capable of producing an explosion by its own energy. It is not proper to define an explosive as a substance, or a mixture of substances, which is capable of undergoing a sudden transformation with the production of heat and gas. The production of heat alone by the inherent energy of the substance which produces it will be enough to constitute the substance an explosive. All explosive substances produce heat; nearly all of them produce gas. The change is invariably accompanied by the liberation of energy. The products of the explosion represent a lower energy level than did the explosive before it had produced the explosion. An explosive perfectly capable of producing an explosion may liberate its energy without producing one. An explosion may occur without an explosive, that is, without any material which contains intrinsically the energy needful to produce the explosion. A steam boiler may explode because of the heat energy which has been put into the water which it contains. But the energy is not intrinsic to water, and water is not an explosive. Also, we have explosives which do not themselves explode. The explosions consist in the sudden ruptures of the containers which confine them. Explosives commonly require some stimulus, like a blow or a spark, to provoke them to liberate their energy, that is, to undergo the change which produces the explosion, but the stimulus which “sets off” the explosive does not contribute to the energy of the explosion. The various stimuli to which explosives respond and the manners of their responses in producing explosions provide a convenient basis for the classification of these interesting materials.

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