Astrolite

Astrolite

Astrolite is the trade name of a family of explosives, invented by chemist Gerald Hurst in the 1960s during his employment with the Atlas Powder Company. The Astrolite family consists of two compounds, Astrolite G and Astrolite A. Both are two-part liquid-state high explosive mixtures, composed of ammonium nitrate oxidizer and hydrazine rocket fuel. They still find some use in commercial and civil blasting applications, but have mostly been superseded by cheaper and safer compounds, largely due to the expense and exceptionally poisonous nature of the hydrazine component.

Astrolite G

Astrolite G, the most common type of Astrolite, is a mixture of ammonium nitrate and hydrazine at a ratio of 2:1, measured in weight. It has a detonation velocity of approximately 8,600 m/s. It has been widely (and incorrectly) referred to as the "world's most powerful non-nuclear explosive", a misconception caused largely by hype among the uninitiated, who cite its high detonation velocity in comparison to nitroglycerine or TNT, while neglecting to notice its low density. In reality, Astrolite G has only a slightly higher detonation velocity than PETN or RDX (two of the most commonly used high explosives), both of which have a far higher brisance and material density than Astrolite G, making them far more powerful in actual practice.

Astrolite A

Astrolite A, a secondary (and less common) type of Astrolite, is synthesized by the addition of finely powdered aluminium to the Astrolite G mixture. Though it has a lower detonation velocity (approximately 7,600 m/s) than Astrolite G, the addition of the aluminium increases both its density and brisance, moderately increasing its overall effectiveness.

Persistency

A notable characteristic of the Astrolite family is its remarkable degree of persistency for a liquid explosive compound. Due to its low volatility, it can be dispersed in an area, be absorbed by the soil, and still retain its full explosive characteristics for a period of approximately 4 days. This has shown to be true even when rainwater had also been absorbed by the soil.

References

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