JAN 11, 2017 4:40 AM PST

Nitroglycerin: A Life-Saving Explosive


Most people have heard of nitroglycerin, either as a heart medication or an explosive. It's mind boggling that one compound could blow your face off or save your life, but it can. Discovered by Ascanio Sobrero in 1847 the molecular structure of nitro is the key to it's dual purpose. Not surprisingly, since he had just discovered the combination, he wasn't entirely familiar with how volatile it was and was badly injured in his lab when there was an explosion while he was working with it.

For combustion to happen, there must be fuel and oxidation. In nitroglycerin this happens in the nitrate molecules which are both fuel and oxidizing agents. A combustion will reaction happen just within those molecules alone. This makes them very unstable.

Famous physicist Alfred Nobel stabilized a formulation of nitroglycerin that could be used in a more controlled way as an explosive. It wasn't until the 20th century, with research into nitrate combinations for chest pain, that it was discovered that the body converts nitroglycerin to nitrous oxide (laughing gas anyone?) which relaxes blood vessels, easing chest pain and keeping the heart from having to work so hard. It's both a deadly substance and a life-saving medication. All because of chemistry.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
JUL 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Carbon Nanolattices: Lighter Than (Atomic) Feathers, Tougher Than Diamonds
JUL 02, 2020
Carbon Nanolattices: Lighter Than (Atomic) Feathers, Tougher Than Diamonds
Carbon is known for its plentiful allotropes, such as the naturally existing graphite and diamond, as well as synthetic ...
JUL 19, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Engineer Human Cartilage in Space
JUL 19, 2020
Scientists Engineer Human Cartilage in Space
Russian cosmonaut, Oleg Kononenko, has successfully carried out an experiment to engineer human cartilage in microgravit ...
SEP 08, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Reusable Chinese Space Craft Lands Returns Earth
SEP 08, 2020
Reusable Chinese Space Craft Lands Returns Earth
The Chinese government has announced the safe return of a reusable spacecraft, called Chongfu Shiyong Shiyan Hangtian Qi ...
SEP 24, 2020
Health & Medicine
Extreme Isolation can Cause Physical Brain Changes
SEP 24, 2020
Extreme Isolation can Cause Physical Brain Changes
By this point in the year, you’ve either heard or uttered the phrase “quarantine brain.” While the act ...
OCT 01, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
OCT 01, 2020
Four Lakes Detected Under Martian Surface
  Researchers from Roma Tre University in Italy have confirmed the existence of four large lakes under the ice at M ...
NOV 04, 2020
Plants & Animals
Scientists Rediscover "Lost" Chameleon Species in Madagascar
NOV 04, 2020
Scientists Rediscover "Lost" Chameleon Species in Madagascar
Voeltzkow’s chameleon was recently rediscovered after disappearing for more than 100 years. According to an articl ...
Loading Comments...