If you like us, please share us on social media or tell your professor. Consider building or adopting a Wikitext for your course like Prof. Dianne Bennett from Sacramento City College demonstrates in this video.

ChemWiki: The Dynamic Chemistry Hypertext > Under Construction > Demonstrations > Additional Demos > Picric Acid Explosion

Picric Acid Explosion

Chemical Concepts Demonstrated

  • Exothermic reactions that require heat for activation
  • "Dangerous" chemical compounds


  • A small quantity of lead oxide (PbO) and picric acid (2,4,6-trinitrophenol) are spread on the metal plate above a burner.
  • Light the burner.


A fairly spectacular explosion takes place.


Picric acid is in the same family of nitroaromatic explosives as trinitrotoluene (TNT).  It is no longer used as an explosive because of this type of reaction.  A shock-insensitive explosive compound that forms shock-sensitive explosive salts with metals (such as lead) is too unwieldy for most usual applications.

Several years ago, someone realized that many high school chemistry classrooms in the midwest portion of the United States contained picric acid.  Bomb squads were sent into several of these schools to remove this "dangerous explosive."  This demonstration has been used to help students understand that compounds such as picric acid can be dangerous, but they can be handled safely if care is taken.



You must to post a comment.
Last modified
10:29, 2 Oct 2013



(not set)
(not set)
(not set)






This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers 1246120, 1525057, and 1413739.

Creative Commons License Unless otherwise noted, content in the UC Davis ChemWiki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at copyright@ucdavis.edu. Questions and concerns can be directed toward Prof. Delmar Larsen (dlarsen@ucdavis.edu), Founder and Director. Terms of Use