If the cotton wool was replaced by wood chips or linen (flax) cloth, would the mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids still react with the cellulose in it to produce nitrocellulose?

If it would, would it be reasonable to assume that the power of such explosive would be (very approximately) proportional to the content of cellulose in your substitute for cotton wool?

Would such explosive produce smoke (as besides nitrocellulose it would contain other flammable substances and no oxygen source)?

Would hemicellulose go through a similar reaction with the acid mixture as cellulose?

  • $\begingroup$ You might check en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrocellulose for nitrocellulose prepration using lenin.(it was a accidental find).The post has very many questions(3),This can be taken ass TOO BROAD.You might want to edit the question part. $\endgroup$ – Chakravarthy Kalyan Jun 8 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Chakravarthy Kalyan If you are talking about the original discovery of nitrocellulose, it mentions a cotton apron while linen is made of flax. $\endgroup$ – MadCake Jun 8 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ I believe the first and last question are related enough to belong together. The questions about smoke and effectiveness might be split into another post, though not sure whether they should. $\endgroup$ – MadCake Jun 8 at 13:44
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    $\begingroup$ textilefashionstudy.com/… for lenin flux composition and textilefashionstudy.com/… for celluclose (part of cotton) are interestingly very near .So we may endup with the same $\endgroup$ – Chakravarthy Kalyan Jun 8 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ I was looking for how much cellulose does flax contain but was not able to find it. Thanks for the link. $\endgroup$ – MadCake Jun 8 at 14:16

This article mentions hemicellulose from wood chips being hydrolyzed, not nitrated by a mixture of ethanol and nitric acid, while cellulose does get nitrated: Isolation of cellulose from poplar wood by nitric acid-ethanol treatment and its effect on the quality of films cast from ionic liquid

I also found a patent for Preparation of wood pulp cellulose for nitration which from the name alone suggests that cellulose from wood can be nitrated (the preparation described is purely physical, no chemicals applied).

Regarding linen and cotton fabric, they will work same as cotton wool. Cotton fabric is how nitrocellulose was first accidentally discovered (wikipedia article) and linen is made of cellulose fiber just like cotton (these fabrics have 94% and 95% cellulose respectively: flax, cotton).


Linen fabric, cotton fabric and cotton wool work equally well. It is possible to nitrate the cellulose in wood chips. Hemicellulose will (most likely) not get nitrated. No idea about smoke production and effectiveness so far though.


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