The Chemistry of Tannerite


For my Chemistry of… I chose to study the chemistry of Tannerite. I chose this topic because I often go target shooting with my dad and family, and who doesn't like explosions?

Tannerite is a binary explosive. This means that the two components that make up the product are neither explosive by themselves until combined. Tannerite can be detonated by only high velocity rifles, meaning that they are not easily detonated. For instance, the speed a bullet needs to be traveling at the time of detonation is approximately 2,000 ft/ sec. The binary mix can neither be set off hitting it, like a hammer, or lighting it on fire. it will simply melt.

One of the components in the explosive, ammonium nitrate, was invented by Johann Glauber in 1659.

Composition of ...

    • Nitrogen (N)
    • Hydrogen (H)
    • Oxygen (O)
  • Aluminum (Al)

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

    • Ammonium nitrate
      • NH(4)NO(3)
        • How: Under very concentrated and considerable heat, Ammonia gas and nitric acid react to form little prills and then brought to the top of a tower and sprayed into a rotating drum
        • What: Little white pebbles are created after the process.
        • What: Contains ionic bonds
        • When: Invented by Johann Glauber in 1659
        • Where: Used by Germans for the explosive properties in the war in Europe.
        • Why: used for fertilizer, ice packs, and explosives! But explosive capabilities were not known until after WWI
    • Aluminum powder
      • Al
        • How: Ground into a very fine powder used with special blenders
        • What: Pure aluminum element
        • When: Used by greeks and Romans in the first century
        • Where: First notably used in Greece and in Rome
      • Why: Used in many everyday utilities, such as cars, cans, furniture, buildings, technology, etc.

Chemistry's Role

At the second of impact, the bullet comes in contact with the binaries and the shock wave created in the container creates a chain of chemical reactions between the catalyst (Ammonium nitrate) and oxidizer (Aluminum powder). No fire is ignited because the other oxygen in the space is sucked out of the container and any occurring flame is extinguished immediately. The chemical formulas to produce Tannerite is NH(4)NO(3)+Al.

Background Research

When the explosive is set off, the ammonium nitrate absorbs all the moisture in the space and the resulting cloud is made of water vapor and leftover reacting elements. The oxygen is also robbed in the reaction so, no fire is ignited in the explosion.


General information about Tannerite product, Binary explosives, chemicals involved

Facts in Ammonium nitrate, in explosives, and fertilizer

Company’s faqs page, questions, ingredients

Information about the reactions at impact with bullett

where Ammonium nitrate is used, why, and general information

production of Ammonium nitrate

About the Author

HaleyJo is a junior at Billings Senior High School. She is a starting flanker for the Billings women’s rugby team after her second year of playing. She is involved with Senior Advocates, and National Honors Society. She enjoys drawing and painting and playing the guitar. HaleyJo plans on attending college for Graphic Design and also playing rugby.