Dynamite is an Explosive material based (in its standard form) on the explosive potential of nitroglycerin, initially using diatomaceous earth (kieselgur: United States spelling; kieselguhr: UK spelling) or another absorbent substance such as sawdust as an absorbent. It was invented by Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel in 1866 in Krummel (Geesthacht, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany), and patented in 1867. Military dynamite achieves greater stability by avoiding nitroglycerin.
It is usually sold in the form of a stick 20 centimetres (roughly 8 inches) long and 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) in diameter, but other sizes also exist. Dynamite is considered a high explosive, which means it detonates rather than deflagrates.
Another form of dynamite consists of nitroglycerin dissolved in nitrocellulose and a small amount of ketone. This form of dynamite is similar to cordite. This form of dynamite is much safer than the simple mix of nitroglycerin and diatomaceous earth/kieselgur
Briefly in the late 19th century, dynamite guns were used experimentally and in very limited combat. The early US Navy submarine USS Holland included a dynamite gun in its armament. Limited range and sensitivity of nitroglycerin based dynamite led to the early abandonment of dynamite guns.
Dynamite has been replaced for combat engineering purposes (construction) by ‘military dynamite’, a stable mixture of TNT, RDX, inert binders and anti-freeze agents. Military dynamite is equivalent in strength to 60 percent straight nitroglycerin commercial dynamite and is used by the military as a direct replacement for “60% straight dynamite”.
Dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel and was the first safely manageable explosive stronger than black powder. Nobel obtained patents for his invention: in England on 7 May 1867 and in Sweden on 19 October 1867. He originally sold dynamite as “Nobel’s Blasting Powder”. After its introduction, dynamite rapidly gained popularity as a safe alternative to gunpowder and nitroglycerin. Nobel tightly controlled the patent, and unlicensed duplicators were quickly shut down. However, a few American businessmen got around the patent by using a slightly different formula
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In the United States, in 1885, chemist Russell S. Penniman invented ammonium dynamite, a form which used ammonium nitrate in addition to the more costly nitroglycerin. These dynamites were marketed with the trade name “Extra”. Ammonium nitrate has 85% of the energy of “straight” nitroglycerin. Dynamite was manufactured by the E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc. until the mid-1970s. Other U.S. dynamite makers of the era included Hercules, Atlas, Trojan-US Powder, Austin, and several other smaller firms. Dynamite was eventually phased out in favor of water gel explosives, which are cheaper to manufacture and in many ways safer to handle.
Difference from TNT
It is a common misconception that TNT and dynamite are the same thing. Though both are high explosives, there is no other similarity between them. While dynamite is an absorbent mixture soaked in nitroglycerin, then compacted into a cylindrical shape and wrapped in paper, TNT is a specific chemical compound called 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene.
A stick of dynamite contains roughly 2.1 million joules of energy. The energy density (joules/kilogram) of dynamite is approximately 7.5 megajoules/kilogram, compared to 4.6 megajoules/kilogram of TNT.