This comment below the question Rocket explosion compared to kT of TNT; has one ever knocked something over at a distance? suggests that

...TNT includes it's own oxidizer...

Explosion isn't the same as combustion and you don't need to add a separate oxidizer to an explosive for it to do its thing.

But technically speaking does the explosion of TNT include any steps that could be considered as oxidative? Can some intermediate products be considered to be acting as oxidizers?


1 Answer 1


3 nitrogroups of TNT are rich of oxygen, but the aromatic ring has only carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Therefore oxygen of nitrogroups oxidizes carbon and hydrogen atoms.

There is no principle difference between oxidation and reduction agens being separate molecules, or being different parts of the same molecule.

Note that TNT, in contrary to e.g nitroglycerine, is oxygen deficient, so the amount of available oxygen is not enough for complete oxidation to water and carbon dioxide.


$$\ce{2 C7H5N3O6 -> 3 N2 + 5 H2O + 7 CO + 7 C}$$ or $$\ce{2 C7H5N3O6 -> 3 N2 + 5 H2 + 12 CO + 2 C}$$


$$\ce{4 C3H5N3O9 -> 6 N2 + 10 H2O + 12 CO2 + O2 }$$

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    $\begingroup$ Second equation for TNT should rather be with CO2 and C - probably most accurate. Definitely no H2 there, sooner there would be only C then any gaseous hydrogen. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Dec 6, 2019 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithoron That may be questionable, as a mix of CO and H2 is/was industrially produced by reaction of gaseous H2O with hot coke. Independently, both reactions are mentioned in the Wikipedia TNT page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TNT#Explosive_character $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Dec 6, 2019 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja410020f may shed some light on this, but is paywalled :( $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Dec 6, 2019 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ Note I am not an expert in chemistry of explosives. See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_explosive particularly section Balancing chemical explosion equations. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Dec 6, 2019 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ Thing is all this looks like equations/ calculations wrote from top of a head. I guess just mentioning that these are simplified/borderline examples would be okayish as question doesn't ask about it. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Dec 6, 2019 at 20:43

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