Napalm

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Napalm (naphthenic and palmitic acids) is a thickening/gelling agent generally mixed with gasoline or a similar fuel for use in military operations. The term napalm is a combination of the names of its derivatives (coprecipitated aluminum salts of naphthenic, and palmitic acids).[1] This type of napalm has long been obsolete in warfare.

"Napalm B" is the more modern version of napalm and, although distinctly different in its chemical composition, it is often referred to simply as "napalm".[2]

Colloquially, napalm has been used as the generic name of several flammable liquids used in warfare, often forms of jellied gasoline, such as to be expelled by flamethrowers in infantry and armored warfare. It is also avalable for civilian use in the form of Sterno.[2]

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Overview

Napalm B is not actually the former form of napalm, but rather, it is usually a mixture of the plastic polystyrene and the hydrocarbon benzene. This is used as a thickening agent to make jellied gasoline. Napalm B has a large advantage over the former napalm in that its ignition can be well-controlled. This was a great advantage to the soldiers, airmen, and sailors using it, because there had been numerous accidents caused by soldiers, airmen, and sailors smoking around stockpiles of napalm.[3]

There are a number of different forms of napalm B. One of these is called Fallbrook napalm, which is a mixture of 46 parts of polystyrene, 33 parts of gasoline, and 21 parts of benzene.

Modern napalm is composed primarily of benzene and polystyrene, and is known as napalm-B,[2] super-napalm, NP2, or also Incendergel. The commonly quoted composition is 21% benzene, 33% gasoline (itself containing about 1.0 to 4.0 percent benzene to raise its octane number), and 46% polystyrene. This mixture is difficult to ignite. A reliable pyrotechnic initiator, often based on thermite (for ordinary napalm) or white phosphorus (for newer compositions), must be used.[4][5] The original napalm usually burned for 15 to 30 seconds while napalm-B can burn for up to 10 minutes.[5]

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