Eco-friendly green bombs?

Here’s another interesting insight from my colleague Ivan Lerner about the conundrum of responsible destruction on this week’s issue of ICIS Chemical Business.Calling Doctor Strangelove…16 June 2008Someone has noticed that dropping bombs and explosives is dangerous to the environment. Next week: water is wet. And ice is cold

By Ivan Lerner/New York

IN THE June 24 issue of the American Chemistry Society’s magazine Chemistry of Materials, University of Munich chemists Thomas Klapotke and Carles Miro Sabate will detail their research concerning the replacement of trinitrotoluene (TNT), cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX) and other explosives, with tetrazoles Bis (3,4,5-triamino-1,2,4-triazolium) 5,5′-Azotetrazolate (G2ZT) and 5,5′-hydrazinebistetrazole (HBT). TNT derives its explosive energy from carbon, but tetrazoles derive energy from nitrogen.

Someone’s discovered that TNT, RDX and other explosives generate toxic gases upon detonation. TNT and RDX are themselves toxic, and if undetonated, will leach into the environment. But experiments show that G2ZT and HBT produce fewer toxic by-products, and are equal to – and sometimes more powerful than – TNT and RDX.This could really open up whole new worlds of weapons research: lead-free bullets, non-carcinogenic napalm, perhaps?But there hasn’t been anything said about how these new weapons might be environmentally safer for the soldiers and sailors who handle them, nor anything regarding cost.Then I have visions of some dim-bulb saying, “Oh, this bomb is environmentally friendly – so if we drop a few more, it’s actually giving the environment some new friends!”But you can’t blame the chemists and engineers and I find it hard to imagine the top brass all of a sudden turning green, although cynics might suggest that supporters of this program needed to add a “green” program to their prospectuses in order not to lose government funding.In that case, and since no-one’s making a stronger effort to, say, end the killing, let’s return to the most environmentally sound weapons of all: rocks and sticks – but only sticks that have already fallen off the tree, of course!

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