The Chemistry of Napalm


  • Napalm, is a long burning incendiary fluid that was commonly used during The Vietnam and Korean Wars, in bombs and flamethrowers. I chose Napalm, because I’ve always enjoyed watching fire, it’s quite majestic, yet, it can get out of hand so easily and cause lots of harm. Napalm is a case where it’s used specifically to cause harm.Composition of ...
    • Gasoline(Octane)(C8H18)
    • Benzene(C6H6)
    • Polystyrene (C8H8)

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

    • Gasoline(Octane)(C8H18)
      • Highly combustible, used for its low flash point and accessibility. Produced through the processing of petroleum.
    • Polystyrene (C8H8)
    • Thickening Agent, used to slow the reaction, sort of an inhibitor. Produced through the processing of petroleum. Usually used in the making of Styrofoam and some plastics.

Chemistry's Role

Napalm, a horribly powerful incendiary weapon. Within napalm there are two combustion reactions happening: Octane is being burned at a relatively fast pace:

(2C8H18 + 25O2 ---> 18H2O + 16 CO2)

While Benzene is burning at a slower pace compared to gasoline.

(2C6H6 + 15O2 ---> 6H2O + 12CO2)

And Styrene acts as a bit of an inhibitor, slowing down the pace of the combustions of each, creating a slow and hot burn.

Background Research

    • Napalm: A long burning incendiary fluid that was commonly used during The Vietnam and Korean Wars, as bombs and in flamethrowers.
    • Napalm was originally made of Gasoline, Naphthalene and Palmitate, (Where it got it’s name) burned for about 30-60 seconds. Now they use Napalm B, which burns for up to 10 minutes. Napalm B is made with Polystyrene, Benzene and Gasoline.
    • Hence it being an incendiary, Napalm obviously contains a few Combustion reactions:
      • Gasoline(Octane): 2C8H18 + 25O2 ---> 18H2O + 16 CO2
      • Benzene 2C6H6 + 15O2 ---> 6H2O + 12CO2
  • The Polystyrene is mainly there as a thickening agent as it is not very combustible, slows the process of combustion of the Octane and Benzene allowing it to burn for longer periods of time. It also makes it very sticky, so it sticks to people, making it very deadly.


    • Very Sticky
    • burns at 800-1200 degrees Celsius
    • Made of gelled petroleum and other materials.

    • Napalm B: mixture of Plastic Polystyrene, Benzene, and Gasoline.

    • Napalm got its name from its original solution to a gasoline flamethrower, mixed gasoline with Naphthalene and Palmitate

    • Palmitic acid(Palmitate) is found in many plants and animals, especially palm trees which is where it gets its name.
    • (C16H32O2)
    • Flash point 206C

    • C10H8 -
    • Slow burning, solid at room temperature.
    • Melting point of 78.2C
    • Flash point 80C - just after melting.
    • Shape is that of two Fused Benzene molecules.

    • C6H6 - Chemical Formula

    • C8H8 - Chemical Formula

  • Styrofoam is made out of Polystyrene, easy source of it.

About the Author

Darion Fontaine is your average gaming geek, who also has an interest for Computers. He’s interested in going into the computer science field. He enjoys going camping, getting out of the noisy city, and just watching things peacefully burn.