Fulminates are chemical compounds which include the fulminate ion. The fulminate ion, CNO
, is a pseudohalic ion because its charge and reactivity are similar to those of the halogens. Due to the instability of the ion, fulminate salts are friction-sensitive explosives. The best known is mercury(II) fulminate, which has been used as a primary explosive in detonators. Fulminates can be formed from metals, such as silver and mercury, dissolved in nitric acid and reacted with ethanol. The weak single nitrogen-oxygen bond is responsible for their instability. Nitrogen very easily forms a stable triple bond to another nitrogen atom, forming nitrogen gas.

3D model (JSmol)
Molar mass 42.018 g·mol−1
Conjugate acid Fulminic acid
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).

Historical notes

Fulminates were discovered by Edward Charles Howard in 1800.[1][2][3] The use of fulminates for firearms was first demonstrated by a Scottish minister, A. J. Forsyth, who patented his scent-bottle lock in 1807; this was a small container filled with fulminate of mercury.[4][5] Joshua Shaw determined how to encapsulate them in metal to form a percussion cap, but did not patent his invention until 1822.

In the 1820s, the organic chemist Justus Liebig discovered silver fulminate (AgCNO) and Friedrich Wöhler discovered silver cyanate (AgOCN). They have different properties but the same chemical composition, which led to a bitter dispute finally resolved by Jöns Jakob Berzelius through the concept of isomers.[6]


See also

English pronunciation of the word "fulminate"


  1. ^ Edward Howard (1800). "On a New Fulminating Mercury". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 90 (1): 204–238. doi:10.1098/rstl.1800.0012.
  2. ^ F. Kurzer (1999). "The Life and Work of Edward Charles Howard". Annals of Science. 56 (2): 113–141. doi:10.1080/000337999296445.
  3. ^ "Edward Charles Howard (1774-1816), Scientist and sugar refiner". National Portrait Gallery. 2005-01-05. Retrieved 2006-08-30.
  4. ^ Alexander Forsyth in Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ "Rifled Breech Loader". Globalsecurity.org.
  6. ^ Greenberg, Arthur (2000). A Chemical History Tour. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 198–203. ISBN 0-471-35408-2.
Bang snaps

Bang snaps (also known as "Devil Bangers", "Lil' Splodeys", Throwdowns, snap-its, poppers, whack-pops, poppies, pop-its, snappers, Snap Dragons, whip'n pops, Pop Pop Snappers, whipper snappers, fun snaps, party snaps, pop pops, whiz-bangers, cherry poppers, pop rocks, snap'n pops or bangers) are a type of small novelty firework sold as a trick noisemaker.

Black One

Black One is the fifth album by Sunn O))). It is a combination of both experimental and traditional Sunn O))), utilizing many guest musicians, including black metal musicians Malefic and Wrest from Xasthur and Leviathan, respectively. The band supposedly also went so far as to lock the claustrophobic Malefic in a casket to record the vocals on "Báthory Erzsébet".2,000 copies included a bonus disc titled Solstitium Fulminate, containing a mix of live performances recorded at Roskilde Festival in 2005 and the immediately preceding European tour.

"Orthodox Caveman", previously known as "Caveman Salad", is based on live material from the White (see Live White) tour. "Báthory Erzsébet" was recorded as a tribute to Quorthon (as well as the countess who inspired Bathory's name) and, according to an interview with Terrorizer magazine, is loosely built "around a really slowed down riff from 'A Fine Day to Die'".The album is not a continuation of the White1 and White2 style. As the band has repeatedly stated, the title is written as the word "one", not the digit.

Caplock mechanism

The caplock mechanism, percussion lock, or cap and ball was the successor of the flintlock mechanism in firearm technology, and used a percussion cap struck by the hammer to set off the main charge, rather than using a piece of flint to strike a steel frizzen. The caplock mechanism consists of a hammer, similar to the cock used in a flintlock, and a nipple (sometimes referred to as a "cone"), which holds a small percussion cap. The nipple contains a tube which goes into the barrel. The percussion cap contains a chemical compound called mercuric fulminate or fulminate of mercury, whose chemical formula is Hg(ONC)2. It is made from mercury, nitric acid and alcohol. When the trigger releases the hammer, it strikes the cap, causing the mercuric fulminate to explode. The flames from this explosion travel down the tube in the nipple and enter the barrel, where they ignite the main powder charge.

Christmas cracker

Christmas crackers are festive table decorations that make a snapping sound when pulled opened, and often contain a small gift and a joke. They are part of Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Commonwealth countries such as Australia (where they are sometimes known as bon-bons), Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

A cracker consists of a segmented cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper with a prize in the middle, making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled apart by two people, each holding an outer chamber, causing the cracker to split unevenly and leaving one person holding the central chamber and prize. The split is accompanied by a mild bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a shock-sensitive, chemically impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun). One chemical used for the friction strip is silver fulminate.

Contact explosive

A contact explosive is a chemical substance that explodes violently when it is exposed to a relatively small amount of energy (friction, pressure, sound, light). Though different substances have varying amounts of energy sensitivity, they are all much more sensitive relative to other explosives. Contact explosives are a part of a group of explosives called primary explosives which are also very sensitive to stimuli but not to the degree of contact explosives. The extreme sensitivity of contact explosives is due to either its composition, bonds, or structure.


A detonator, frequently a blasting cap, is a device used to trigger an explosive device. Detonators can be chemically, mechanically, or electrically initiated, the latter two being the most common.

The commercial use of explosives uses electrical detonators or the capped fuse which is a length of safety fuse to which an ordinary detonator has been joined. Many detonators' primary explosive is a material called ASA compound. This compound is formed from lead azide, lead styphnate and aluminium and is pressed into place above the base charge, usually TNT or tetryl in military detonators and PETN in commercial detonators.

Other materials such as DDNP (diazo dinitro phenol) are also used as the primary charge to reduce the amount of lead emitted into the atmosphere by mining and quarrying operations. Old detonators used mercury fulminate as the primary, often mixed with potassium chlorate to yield better performance.

A blasting cap is a small sensitive primary explosive device generally used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less sensitive secondary explosive such as TNT, dynamite, or plastic explosive.

Blasting caps come in a variety of types, including non-electric caps, electric caps, and fuse caps. They are used in commercial mining, excavation, and demolition. Electric types are set off by a short burst of current sent by a blasting machine via a long wire to the cap to ensure safety. Traditional fuse caps have a fuse which is ignited by a flame source, such as a match or a lighter.


Diazodinitrophenol (DDNP) was the first diazo compound produced; it was subsequently used to make dyes and explosives. It forms yellow crystals in pure form; however, the color of impure forms may vary from dark yellow to green to dark brown. It is soluble in acetic acid, acetone, concentrated hydrochloric acid, most non-polar solvents and is slightly soluble in water.A solution of cold sodium hydroxide may be used to destroy it. DDNP may be desensitized by immersing it in water, as it does not react in water at normal temperature. It is less sensitive to impact but more powerful than mercury fulminate and almost as powerful as lead azide. The sensitivity of DDNP to friction is much less than that of mercury fulminate and lead azide.

DDNP is used with other materials to form priming mixtures, particularly where a high sensitivity to flame or heat is desired. DDNP is often used as an initiating explosive in propellant primer devices and is a substitute for lead styphnate in what are termed "green" or "non-toxic" (lead free) priming explosive compositions. Lead free primers have been judged as inadequate for service use in firearms due to weak and uneven initiation compared to lead based primers.

Edward Charles Howard

Edward Charles Howard FRS (28 May 1774 – 28 September 1816) the youngest brother of Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk, was a British chemist who has been described as "the first chemical engineer of any eminence."In January 1799 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1800 awarded their Copley medal for his work on mercury. He discovered mercury fulminate, a powerful primary explosive. In 1813 he invented a method of refining sugar which involved boiling the cane juice not in an open kettle, but in a closed vessel heated by steam and held under partial vacuum. At reduced pressure, water boils at a lower temperature, and so Howard's development both saved fuel and reduced the amount of sugar lost through caramelisation. The invention, known as Howard's vacuum pan, is still in use.

Howard also was interested in the composition of meteorites especially those of "natural iron". He found that many of these contained an alloy of nickel and iron that was not found on Earth, and thus they may have fallen from the sky. One type of meteorite is now known as Howardite.

François Prélat

François Prélat was a French gunsmith and inventor. He is thought to have invented the first fully contained cartridge in 1808, as well as the percussion cap in 1818.

In association with the Swiss gunsmith Jean Samuel Pauly, François Prélat invented from 1808 to 1812 the first totally contained cartridge, incorporating in one package a fulminate primer, black powder and a round bullet. A percussion pin would provoke ignition. This was a marked improvement over the invention of Jean Lepage, in which the fulminate was simply poured into a pan near the breech. The new cartridge was particularly considered useful for cavalry firearms, as the motion of the horse and the difficulty of movement rendered conventional loading extremely difficult. This center-fire design is today the most commonly used. The two men had set up a gunsmith shop together 4, rue des Trois-Frères, in Paris.

In 1818, Prélat took a patent, or Certificat d'addition, for the invention of the percussion cap (ignition copper cap) to be used in cartridges, thus replacing the magazine lock mechanism.Prélat showed some firearms of his conception at the 1855 Paris Universal Exposition.

Fulminating silver

Fulminating silver is a historic name which may apply to a number of silver based explosives which "fulminate" or detonate easily and violently. It has no exact chemical or dictionary definition, however it may refer to:

silver fulminate (which, confusingly, is the only "fulminating silver" to be a silver compound with the fulminate anion)

silver azide, AgN3

a mixture, a decomposition product of Tollens' reagent

silver nitride, Ag3N - one of the earliest silver based explosives

the alchemical substance "Argentum Fulminans"The stability of many of these compounds can vary depending on how they are stored or handled, with levels of hydration often being a major factor.

Fulminic acid

Fulminic acid is a chemical compound with a molecular formula HCNO. Its silver salt was discovered in 1798 by Luigi Valentino Brugnatelli who found that if silver was dissolved in nitric acid and the solution added to spirits of wine, a white, highly explosive powder was obtained. In 1800 Edward Charles Howard also created silver salt and was later investigated in 1824 by Justus von Liebig. Howard also created mercuric salt in 1799, who substituted mercury for silver in Brugnatelli’s process. It is an organic acid and an isomer of isocyanic acid, whose silver salt was discovered in 1825 by Friedrich Wöhler. The free acid was first isolated in 1966.Fulminic acid and its salts (fulminates), for instance mercury fulminate, are very dangerous, and are often used as detonators for other explosive materials, and are examples of primary explosives. The vapors also are toxic.


In chemistry, isomers are ions or molecules with identical formulas but distinct structures. Isomers do not necessarily share similar properties. Two main forms of isomerism are structural isomerism (or constitutional isomerism) and stereoisomerism (or spatial isomerism).

Jean Lepage

Jean Lepage (1779–1822) was a well-known French gunsmith. He worked for Louis XVI, Napoléon and then Louis XVIII. He was the inventor of fulminate percussion systems for firearms, which superseded the flint-lock mechanism and opened the way to modern firearms. This followed the discovery of fulminates by Edward Charles Howard in 1800.

Between 1807 and 1810, Lepage invented a new way to fire portative firearms, by using the mercury fulminate priming medium to be fired by the blow of a percussion hammer. The new method permitted the abandonment of flint-lock firing mechanisms and opened the way to modern firing methods. The new mechanism used a magazine filled with fulminate primer, which would deliver a small amount of priming powder near the gun breech every time the magazine was cocked. Since the fulminate powder was highly sensitive to humidity, methods of coating the fulminate in varnish were developed, as well as methods of encasing the fulminate culminating with the invention of the percussion cap by François Prélat in 1818 and Deloubert in 1820.

Mercury(II) fulminate

Mercury(II) fulminate, or Hg(CNO)2, is a primary explosive. It is highly sensitive to friction, heat and shock and is mainly used as a trigger for other explosives in percussion caps and blasting caps. Mercury(II) cyanate, though its empirical formula is identical, has a different atomic arrangement; the cyanate and fulminate anions are isomers.

First used as a priming composition in small copper caps beginning in the 1820s, mercury fulminate quickly replaced flints as a means to ignite black powder charges in muzzle-loading firearms. Later, during the late 19th century and most of the 20th century, mercury fulminate or potassium chlorate became widely used in primers for self-contained rifle and pistol ammunition. Mercury fulminate has the distinct advantage over potassium chlorate of being non-corrosive, but it is known to weaken with time, by decomposing into its constituent elements. The reduced mercury which results forms amalgams with cartridge brass, weakening it, as well. Today, mercury fulminate has been replaced in primers by more efficient chemical substances. These are non-corrosive, less toxic and more stable over time; they include lead azide, lead styphnate and tetrazene derivatives. In addition, none of these compounds require mercury for manufacture, supplies of which can be unreliable in wartime.

Percussion cap

The percussion cap, introduced circa 1820, is a type of single-use ignition device used on muzzleloader firearms that enabled them to fire reliably in any weather conditions. This crucial invention gave rise to the caplock or percussion lock system.

Before this development, firearms used flintlock ignition systems that produced flint-on-steel sparks to ignite a pan of priming powder and thereby fire the gun's main powder charge (the flintlock mechanism replaced older ignition systems such as the matchlock and wheellock). Flintlocks were prone to misfire in wet weather, and many flintlock firearms were later converted to the more reliable percussion system.

Platinum fulminate

Platinum fulminate is a primary explosive which is a fulminate salt of platinum discovered by Edmund Davy.

Potassium fulminate

Potassium fulminate is the potassium salt of the fulminate ion. Its only use, aside from chemical demonstrations, is in the percussion caps for some early rifles. Usually prepared by reacting a potassium amalgam with mercury fulminate, it is much less sensitive due to the ionic bond between potassium and carbon, unlike the weaker covalent bond between mercury and carbon.


The pseudohalogens are polyatomic analogues of halogens, whose chemistry, resembling that of the true halogens, allows them to substitute for halogens in several classes of chemical compounds. Pseudohalogens occur in pseudohalogen molecules, inorganic molecules of the general forms

Ps–Ps or Ps–X (where Ps is a pseudohalogen group), such as cyanogen; pseudohalide anions, such as cyanide ion; inorganic acids, such as hydrogen cyanide; as ligands in coordination complexes, such as ferricyanide; and as functional groups in organic molecules, such as the nitrile group.

Well-known pseudohalogen functional groups include cyanide, cyanate, thiocyanate, and azide.

Silver fulminate

Silver fulminate (AgCNO) is the highly explosive silver salt of fulminic acid.

Silver fulminate is a primary explosive, but has limited use as such due to its extreme sensitivity to impact, heat, pressure and electricity. The compound becomes progressively sensitive as it is aggregated, even in small amounts; the touch of a falling feather, the impact of a single water droplet or a small static discharge are all capable of explosively detonating an unconfined pile of silver fulminate no larger than a dime and no heavier than a few milligrams. Aggregating larger quantities is impossible due to the compound's tendency to self-detonate under its own weight.

Silver fulminate was first prepared in 1800 by Edward Charles Howard in his research project to prepare a large variety of fulminates. Along with mercury fulminate, it is the only fulminate stable enough for commercial use. Detonators using silver fulminate were used to initiate picric acid in 1885, but since have only been used by the Italian navy. The current commercial use has been in producing non-damaging novelty noisemakers as children's toys and tricks.

Carbon ions
Oxides and related


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