Many see fish as a delicacy and as a very harmless creature (out of water). Well yes it is, until you involve chemistry and warfare or the military in general. Fish can be used to make explosives (though not directly), explosives that can bring down the largest of all the buildings or even a whole city. How can this be done?

Firstly fish oil is produced from fish by industrial processing. Fish oil contains glycerin and other components including hard metals. Then the fish oil is processed through chemical processes to produce glycerin. Glycerin is used for various purposes which range from domestic to industrial.  But how do we turn this into an explosive?

The glycerin itself if reacted with potassium permanganate will result in a huge explosion and consequently, fire.

Potassium permanganate + glycerin———- fire

The glycerin, if also mixed with water and hydrogen peroxide, can result in an explosion, though not very powerful.

Hydrogen peroxide + glycerin + water ——— explosion

The glycerin can be further distilled to produce glycerol. The glycerol reacted with a mixture of sulphuric acid and nitric acid produces nitroglycerin.

Sulphuric acid + nitric acid + glycerol ——- nitroglycerin

The nitroglycerin is characteristically very explosive. It is used by different industries to manufacture various explosives like dynamite; it is also used in making gunpowder. The explosions from nitroglycerine cause quite a huge impact since when it explodes; a lot of energy is released. Since no smoke is produced by its detonation; it is preferred in making gun powders which maintains visibility in battlefields.

Nitroglycerine is easily exploded by heating or by applying shock on the container carrying it. This can also happen by dropping the container holding it.

How is dynamite made from nitroglycerine? Nitroglycerine mixed with an absorbent material (used to reduce the effect of shock on the nitroglycerine) like sawdust and sodium nitrate produces dynamite. This is to date used for mining purposes though if not handled well can lead loss of lives.

The nitroglycerin can also be reacted with paraffin and nitric acid and that will result into gelatin explosives which are quite more dangerous.

This explosive made from fish was mainly used by the Germans (Nazis) during the Second World War. The fish oil processing plants were located in Lofoten, which are islands in Norway where fish were available in plenty. But the factories were brought down by an organized attack by the Britons. This destroyed the processing plants and the Germans were cut short of the fish oil supply.

Over time the use of nitroglycerin has reduced in warfare because it is difficult to detonate, its unstable nature (friction detonate) and the availability of more powerful explosives like TNT.

The manufacture of explosives using nitroglycerin is highly discouraged all over the world due to its explosive nature. Those willing to take the experiment are advised to do it with caution. Just a reminder, it is also illegal to be in possession of explosives.


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