Plastic explosive

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Plastic explosive (or plastique) is a specialised form of explosive material. It is soft and hand moldable solid material. Plastic explosives are properly known as putty explosives within the field of explosives engineering.[1]

Common plastic explosives include Semtex and C-4. Plastic explosives are especially suited for explosive demolition as they can be easily formed into the best shapes for cutting structural members, and have a high enough velocity of detonation and density for metal cutting work. They are generally not used for ordinary blasting as they tend to be significantly more expensive than other materials that perform just as well in that field. Also, when an explosive is combined with a plasticizer, its power is generally lower than when it is pure.

Contents

History

The first plastic explosive was gelignite, invented by Alfred Nobel in 1875.

Just prior to World War One, the British explosives chemist Oswald Silberrad obtained British and US patents for a series of plastic explosives called "Nitrols", composed of nitrated aromatics, collodion, and oxidising inorganic salts.[2] The language of the patents indicate that at this time, Silberrad saw no need to explain to "those versed in the art" either what he meant by plasticity nor why it may be advantageous, as he only explains why his plastic explosive is superior to others of that type.

One of the simplest plastic explosives was Nobel’s Explosive No. 808, also known as Nobel 808 (often just called Explosive 808 in the British Armed Forces during the Second World War), developed by the British company Nobel Chemicals Ltd well before World War II. It had the appearance of green plasticine with a distinctive smell of almonds. During World War II it was extensively used by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) for sabotage missions. It is also the explosive used in HESH anti-tank shells. Captured SOE-supplied Nobel 808 was the explosive used in the failed 20 July plot assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler in 1944.

During and just after World War II a number of new RDX-based explosives were developed, including Compositions C, C2, and eventually C3. Together with RDX these incorporate various plasticisers to decrease sensitivity and make the composition plastic.

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