Organic Nitrogen Compounds with Cultural Connections
Organic Nitrogen compounds are a very important part of every day life. One of the most used and influential organic nitrogen compounds is TNT, or trinitrotoluene. TNT does have other uses in chemistry as a reactant to transfer charges on salts. TNT is a yellow solid, and although it is used in chemical reactions, its primary use is as an explosive. TNT's yield as an explosive is considered the standard from which all other explosions/bombs are judged. Often, TNT is confused with dynamite as being the same thing. However, the two are not similar at all. Dynamite is made of an absorbent medium coated in nitroglycerin and wrapped in a holding tube. TNT on the other hand is an actual compound, trinitrotoluene. TNT was discovered in 1863 by Joseph Wilbrand. At first TNT was not considered an explosive because of the difficulty in igniting the compound. In fact, in a British explosive control act in the late 19th century TNT wasn't even considered an explosive. One reason that this could be true is because of the stability of TNT. Although a powerful explosive, TNT can be poured easily and doesn't react to shock and movement like previous explosives. The stability, yet strength of TNT is the reason it has been incorporated into the majority of bombs over the years.
TNT was first incorporated into bombs by the Germans in 1902. Previously lyddite had been used in bombs. However, the lyddite wasn't as stable and when it hit the shell of ships it would explode immediately. The TNT though would make it through the hull and explode inside, causing much greater damage. The British realized the extra ability of the TNT and replaced their shells with it in 1907. The United States today uses TNT widely in many of its bombs. Much of the TNT produced in the United States comes from Virginia.
Production of TNT is a very dangerous business because of the toxicity of the compound. TNT causes skin irritation and even a yellow coloring of the skin. The workers that formed TNT in world war one didn't have proper protection, and as a result there skin turned yellow. These workers gained the nickname of canaries because of the yellow coloring of their skin.