I'm looking for a serious introduction to the chemistry (and perhaps to a lesser extend the physics) of explosives. Presupposition of basic university courses in Organic Chemistry and Thermodynamics is no problem, though it would be helpful if some of the specifics needed to understand subsequent material would be briefly outlined as a reminder (e.g. in an introductory chapter). Sadly this search is quite hard because of all the Uncle Fester and like trash clogging up search results. To be clear, that is absolutely not what I'm after. I want an academically oriented introduction, not some "recipe" book.

A book that more or less resembles (I guess) what I'm after is The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives by Tenney L. Davis. However, it is over 70 years old and might be a little to advanced for me (might, I just don't know without some guidance).

Every help is appreciated!

PS. I actually found an online copy of the book I mentioned. It does not look really theoretical?


2 Answers 2


To be clear, that is absolutely not what I'm after. I want an academically oriented introduction, not some "recipe" book.

I'm glad to read that!

I'm aware of Chemistry of Energetic Materials (Eds. George A. Olah and David R. Squire, Academic Press, 1991) which seem to cover

  • The Structural Investigation of Energetic Materials.
  • Studies of Initial Dissociation Processes in 1,3,3-Trinitroazetidine By Photofragmentation Translational Spectroscopy.
  • Studies of Molecular Dissociation By Means of Ultrafast Absorption and Emission Spectroscopy and Picosecond X-Ray Diffraction.
  • Computer-Aided Design of Monopropellants.
  • Polycyclic Amine Chemistry.
  • Metallacarboranes of the Lanthanides and Alkaline-Earth Metals: Potential High-Energy Fuel Additives.
  • Methods for Preparing Energetic Nitro-Compounds: Nitration with Superacidic Systems, Nitronium Salts, And Related Complexes.

On a side note, if you are interested in current research on high-energy materials free of nitro groups, have a look at the work of Thomas M. Klapötke.


For a starting point, I'd recommend this book. It covers the basics fairly well, and has a bit of history. It is often used as the introductory text in the few universities that have specific programs in energetic materials.

In addition, this book gives more of a synthetic chemistry perspective, including some very exotic stuff. Some are of practical value, some are only of academic interest.

In addition to that, depending on what you are interested in, I found that this book is quite a useful reference for modern propellants and explosives research (which naturally parrallel each other).

  • $\begingroup$ Thank-you so much for your answer! Just curious, what is your expertise in these matters? If you could add some references/details (for example hw do you know such and such book is used in a few universities) I will award you the bounty. At any rate +1. Also it might be valuable to change the hyperlinks "this" to the actual name of the book, so that it is more informative, but that is just a formatting issue. :) $\endgroup$
    – Jori
    Dec 11, 2016 at 18:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I will give you the benefit of the doubt, because your answer is more what I was looking for (but thanks to Klaus too of course!). So you will get the bounty! Still I would appreciate if you could edit your answer at some later point to include the things I mentioned above. $\endgroup$
    – Jori
    Dec 12, 2016 at 4:26

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