|Other names|| 1,3,5-Trinitro-1,3,5-triazacyclohexane,|
|Molar mass||[[Molar mass::222.12 g/mol−1]]|
|CAS number||CAS number::121-82-4|
|Density and phase||Density::1.82 g/ml, Solid|
|Solubility in water||insoluble|
|Melting point||Melting point::205.5°C|
|Boiling point||Boiling point::234°C|
|MSDS||Material safety data sheet|
|Related compounds||HMX (C4H8N8O8)|
| Except where noted otherwise, data are given for|
materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Disclaimer and references
RDX is an explosive compound that is used in a variety of high explosives. RDX stands for Royal Demolition eXposive or Research Department eXplosive. It is a member of a group of explosives known as nitramides which are used in many military high explosives. Its chemical name is 1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine and its chemical formula is C3H6N6O6. It is also known as cyclonite, hexogen, and T4. RDX is most noted for its use in the explosives C-4 and Semtex.
RDX is a member of the class of nitramines, which are composed mostly of explosive compounds. It exists as a hard, white crystalline solid that is usually ground into a powder.  It is a very insoluble substance, only slightly dissolving in water and a few other liquids. It is incredibly stable for an explosive; it is only really sensitive to percussion. There are other compounds that can cause it to react though. It is easily initiated with mercury fulminate, causing it to react violently. In terms of explosive power, it is approximately one and a half times more powerful than TNT. When compressed to a gravity of about 1.70 in a confined space, its detonation velocity is about 27,000 fps. This explosive power causes it to be ranked second in explosive power after nitroglycerin for common explosives. It is frequently favored by the military for its stability when stored, its shattering capability (known as brisance), and the speed at which it reaches its maximum explosive pressure. On its own, RDX breaks down after several hours of exposure to air and water. It is frequently combined in other explosives though to increase stability and durability.
Over the past sixty years, RDX has become the most important explosive used in the United States Military. It has found uses as a propellant, a type of gunpowder, and as a high explosive. It has several applications in both the military and civilian purposes. In the military it is used in blasting caps and also as the base charge for detonators. It most frequently mixed with other ingredients to form highly effective explosives. It can be mixed with other explosives to form cyclotols, the explosives in aerial bombs, torpedoes, and mines. It is most commonly known as the most prominent ingredient in several military explosives. These include Composition A, Composition B, Composition C, HBX, H-6, and Semtex. Composition A is a mixture of RDX melted with wax while Composition B is RDX mixed with TNT. Composition C, or C-4 is the most widely known and consists of a plasticized version of RDX. Semtex is also more common and is a mixture of RDX and PETN, another explosive compound. All together, RDX has been the major ingredient in approximately seventy five different products.
RDX was first discovered by Georg Friedrich Henning of Germany. He patented it in 1898 but it was not used until World War II when it was used by most of the warring powers. Its widespread use during the war was mostly because it did not require petroleum to produce or as an ingredient. The name Royal Demolition eXsplosive was coined by the British, while it was called several other names around the world. It was called cyclonite in the United States, Hexogen by the Germans, and T4 by the Italians.
RDX is produced through several different methods. The primary method of production is through the nitrolysis of hexamine with nitric acid. The frequent method of production in the United States is the Bachmann process. In this process, hexamine reacts with nitric acid, ammonium nitrate, glacial acetic acid, and acetic anhydride to form a crude product of RDX. This is then processed and purified to create usable RDX. The process used in the United Kingdom and France, the Woolrich process excludes the use of acetic anhydride. Yet another process of creating RDX is by using HMX, another similar explosive compound. Through the direct nitration of HMX, some quantities of RDX can be produced. While effective, this process is not nearly as productive as other processes.
RDX has several advantages over other explosives when it comes to production. Its ingredients are cheap and the process to create it is relatively safe, though there are neurological problems associated with acute exposure. Its effectiveness as an explosive also increased the demand for it. Production of RDX peaked in 1960 when it became the third most produced explosive in the U.S. Between 1969 and 1971 the average weight produced was fifteen million pounds per month. By 1984, the rate of production for the U.S. had dropped to eighteen million pounds per year.
Exposure and Side Effects
While RDX is fairly safe to handle for an explosive, there are some medical side effects related to prolonged exposure to it. The primary health concern about RDX exposure are neurological effects. In the event that large quantities of RDX are inhaled or ingested, seizures can result. The greatest risk for developing RDX related issues is in production facilities. Inhalation is the main cause in these situations with five RDX related seizures occurring to workers in manufacturing plants in 1962. At least forty cases of RDX seizures have been reported by military soldiers. In most of these cases, RDX was ingested when soldiers tried chewing C-4 as an intoxicant or using it as cooking fuel. While the immediate effects of RDX exposure may seem severe, normalization of bodily functions and removal from the human body can usually occur after a few months of being removed from exposure. Although no lasting conditions have been reported, its short term effects have classified it as a carcinogen and exposure to it should be avoided.
Discovery Channel's Mythbusters demonstrate the stability of C4, an RDX compound.