The Environmental Protection Agency has listed trinitrotoluene (TNT) as a possible carcinogen, and exposure to the material has been linked to disorders of the blood, such as anemia, and abnormal liver function, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Scientists have developed a novel melt-cast explosive material that could be a suitable replacement for TNT. The material possesses non- or low-toxicity with the right melting point to be liquified and cast. The new molecule is a nitrogen-containing compound called bis-oxadiazole. The formula significantly surpasses the explosive energy of TNT, but still has melt-casting capability.
A challenge was getting a high enough yield of the material out of the synthesis process. An early procedure produced only a 4 percent yield — far too low to be practical and affordable. After several iterations of the process, the scientists boosted the yield to 44 percent. A 24-atom molecule was developed that's packed with nitrogen and has increased performance 1.5 times greater than TNT. The full chemical name is bis(1,2,4-oxadiazole)bis-(methylene) dinitrate.
Research will continue with production of the material on a kilogram scale, a battery of explosive testing, and future toxicity studies.