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PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate, also known as pentrite, or rarely and primarily in German as nitropenta) is one of the most powerful high explosives known, with a relative effectiveness factor (R.E. factor) of 1.66. It is more sensitive to shock or friction than TNT or tetryl, and it is never used alone as a booster. It is primarily used in booster and bursting charges of small caliber ammunition, in upper charges of detonators in some land mines and shells, and as the explosive core of detonation cord.
PETN's formula is C(CH2ONO2)4. Its theoretical maximum crystal density is 1.773 g/cm³. It melts at 141 °C.
As a pollutant in the environment
PETN does not occur naturally, so the production and use of this kind of compound can lead to contamination of the environment. PETN is subject to biodegradation in untreated or unpreserved urine and feces. There also have been some reports of its degradation by bacteria, whose PETN reductase denitrates PETN into trinitrates and then dinitrates (French et al., 1996). The last compound shown in the pathway, pentaerythritol dinitrate, is degraded further to unknown products.
PETN's preparation involves the nitration of pentaerythritol with a mixture of concentrated nitric and sulfuric acid. The preferred method of nitration is the ICI method, which utilizes concentrated nitric acid (98%+) alone, as mixed acid can create unstable sulfonated by-products.
C(CH2OH)4 + 4HNO3 → C(CH2ONO2)4 + 4H2O
Penthrite was first synthesized in 1891 by Tollens and Wiegand by nitration of pentaerythritol. In 1912, after being patented by the German government, the production of PETN started. PETN was used by the German army in World War I.  PETN is also one of the ingredients in Semtex plastic explosive.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "PETN". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|