How Do Explosives Work?
There are two types of explosives: low explosives such as gunpowder, and high explosives such as TNT. Low explosives generally are a mix of a combustible substance and an oxidant that burns (deflagrates) at speeds from between a few cm/sec to 400 m/sec, but usually on the lower end of that scale. High explosives are chemical compounds (one type of molecule) rather than a duo – these detonate rather than deflagrate, producing a supersonic shock wave of 1,000 – 9,000 m/sec. Low explosives work the same way as burning wood or coal does: by combining together a combustible substance with an oxidant at sufficient temperature, heat and rapidly expanding gases are created. Depending on the level of oxygen in the surrounding medium, the deflagration occurs with more or less speed and violence. At the higher levels, deflagrations resemble detonations. High explosives are chemically unstable compounds, often including several nitrate groups. When exposed to sufficient heat or mechanical shock, h