Environmentally friendly TNT

Process utilizes a cyclodehydrative condensation mechanism for making the explosive compound that does not produce unwanted highly toxic nitration isomers

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Current methods of synthesizing trinitrotoluene (TNT) involve successive mixed-acid nitrations of the petrochemical toluene. During this process, some undesired nitration isomers occur (α-, β, and γ-trinitrotoluene) as well as incomplete nitration products (2,4- and 2,6-dinitrotoluene). These unwanted isomers are removed by sellite (sodium sulfite) washings. Isomers with nitro groups ortho to one another react with the sulfite generating ionic, water-soluble products. These washes have a characteristic red color, hence the name red water. These washings are highly toxic and very expensive to destroy (incinerate). Because of this red water problem, there are no North American plants that will produce TNT. Currently, all U.S. needs for TNT are supplied from overseas sources where environmental standards are mild or non-existent.

As an alternative, Navy researchers have developed methods to produce  2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) compounds, picric acid (2,4,6, trinitrophenol, TNP) explosives, and 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) compounds by utilizing environmentally friendly cyclodehydrative condensation mechanisms. The process reacts nitromalondialdehydes, with dinitro-compounds to produce aldol-intermediate compounds, and subjects these intermediate compounds to a cyclodehydrative mechanism to produce 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) compounds. Additional methods to produce TNP and DNP are disclosed in the patent

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