SiliconThe first systematic study of a new group of explosives has concluded that the materials are so shock sensitive â?? apt to detonate if struck or heated â?? that the legendarily touchy nitroglycerin seems a pillar of stability by comparison. Conducted by Thomas M. Klapötke and colleagues in Germany.

In the study, researchers focus on newly developed chemical analogues, or variants, of two common high explosives in which carbon atoms have been replaced by atoms of silicon. Because of the extreme sensitivity of the compounds, which the researchers did not expect, only a limited number of tests could be performed before samples exploded.

A sample of one compound, for instance, exploded when touched gently with a small teflon spatula. Another sample exploded under a microscope. Measurements showed that the silicon analogue was more than 3 times more sensitive to impact than the parent compound. The report states that the compound is “one of the most dangerous materials, and tends to explode on the slightest impact.”


1a – Pentaerythrityl tetraazide
1b – Sila-pentaerythritol tetranitrate
2a – Pentaerythritol tetranitrate
2b – Sila-pentaerythritol tetranitrate

“The Sila-Explosives Si(CH2N3)4 and Si(CH2ONO2)4: Silicon Analogues of the Common Explosives Pentaerythrityl Tetraazide, C(CH2N3)4 and Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate, C(CH2ONO2)4”
Thomas M. Klapötke, Ph.D. University of Munich Munich, Germany
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 129 (21), 6908 -6915, 2007. DOI: 10.1021/ja071299p