Project Ethylene Glycol
Sometime around 2003 we started using ethylene glycol as the fuel. This is cheap, safer to handle than nitromethane and alcohol and doesn't evaporate as fast. Plus when it is mixed in the right proportions it detonates easier.
I don't remember where I found it but someplace I found an obscure mention of ethylene glycol as being used in some explosive mixtures. I was immediately interested but skeptical. One does not think of ordinary car antifreeze as a fuel. But it is just a hydrocarbon closely related to alcohol (but far more toxic--it kills countless cats and dogs each year).
I had tried so many other fuels that one thinks of being far more easy to ignite and, one might assume, easier to detonate. Acetone, nitromethane, various types of alcohol, gasoline, diesel, naphthalene, and numerous other fuels have all been tested and found to be of varying sensitivity and I expected the ethylene glycol to be middle of the road at best.
I believe it was in December of 2002 that Ry and I mixed up an oxygen balanced mixture of potassium chlorate, ammonium nitrate, and ethylene glycol. We mixed it up in my Dad's shop and took it out in the woods for testing. It was a sticky blob that handled about like warm peanut butter--chunky style. It wasn't pleasant to work with and I considered not even doing a detonation test because it was so difficult to handle that I couldn't imagine using it. I punched a hole in a couple milk cartons of it from about 20 yards away with 7.62x39 rounds. There was no reaction except for the spillage out the back. Just what I figured. Well, it was worth a try. While picking up the the milk cartons I noticed that the entrance "wounds" had dark circles around them on the inside of the containers. It was "trying" to detonate!
My hunch was that if I reduced the fuel it would use less heat for vaporizing the liquid and would be more likely to detonate. We remixed the remaining material with more ammonium nitrate and potassium chlorate and tried again. I think one detonated and the other made a audible "pop" that blew the carton apart but didn't actually detonate. We were on the right track! Another remix or two and we had something that would detonate with about the same bullet velocity as the current mix and was just as easy to handle.
We ran out of time for the day but we left the farm quite excited. Even if it wasn't any more sensitive than the mixtures using nitromethane and alcohol it was far cheaper, didn't evaporate nearly as fast, and was less flammable. Ultimately we carefully did numerous experiments to get maximum sensitivity and found that in addition to the numerous other benefits it also would detonate easier. The only downside is that it doesn't begin to use all the available oxygen. Here is our maximum sensitivity mix:
The risks are many. I wear a flak jacket, eye protection, gloves, and hearing protection.
There are probably more cautions to be made than I can possibly remember. Here are just a few of the other things I can think of off the top of my head that should be a concern to you:
Email: Joe Huffman