MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: What compounds in space can make an explosion?

Date: Tue Feb 8 19:28:16 2000
Posted By: Artem Evdokimov, Postdoc
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 950034336.Ch

Dear User,

Atmospheric explosions and vacuum explosions differ (obviously) by the fact 
that there is no oxygen and thus the explosive mixture has to be complete 
with oxidizer and fuel. 
Some atmospheric explosions can utilize oxygen and thus would not need 
intrinsic oxidizer or would need only small amounts of it. A typical 
example of an atmosphere-dependent explosion would be an infamous fuel-air 
bomb, FAB.
Any explosive mixture or compound which does not require external oxidizer 
would be also explosive in space, if the following considerations are taken 
into account:

1) space is quite empty i.e. there is no atmospheric pressure to speak of. 
Most liquids and many solids would evaporate (sublime) given time. This may 
disrupt the balance of explosive mixture. Hence, if a volatile component is 
involved, the explosive device should be enclosed to prevent component 

2) vacuum is a poor conductor of heat. This fact can produce a variety of 
effects. On one side, heat dissipation would be slowed down and the mixture 
or compound would get hotter, and would react faster (I am only talking 
about relatively slow processes, because during actual explosion the 
pressure builds up so fast that there is very little difference between 
zero atm. and 1 atm. starting pressure. This may have effect on 
cumulative-heat type explosions i.e. when something has to gradually heat 
up before the actual explosion takes place. On the other side, gas-mediated 
effects may be slowed down because there is no heat transfer by the 

3) given sufficient time in the shade, objects will cool down considerably. 
 This one does not require much elaboration.

In general, space explosions and atmpspheric explosions are very similar, 
except that there won't be much of a shockwave and that debris flies much 
farther/faster due to the absence of air friction. All single-component 
explosives such as tnt, hexamine, ng etc. will still be perfectly explosive 
in space. Some of those compounds will be volatile and would have to be 
protected (i.e. painted). Most of the mixtures, such as gunpowder, would 
still be explosive if isolated from vacuum.

If you are interested in pyrotechnic compositions, please look up my 
previous answers to related questions. Also, the net contains enough 
information for a determined person to kill him/her self.

Hope it helps.


Current Queue | Current Queue for Chemistry | Chemistry archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Chemistry.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2000. All rights reserved.