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Trinitrotoluene, Trinitrotoluol (Old nomenclature) in short and better known as TNT, is a high explosive, manufactured by combining toluene with a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids.

TNT is flake shaped light - yellow substance. Invented by German chemist Julius Wilbrand in 1863, originally used as yellow dye, its explosive properties were only fully discovered in 1891 by Carl Häussermann. Since then Trinitrotoluene has been widespread and used in mining, construction and demolition and for military use.

Commercial and military use

Trinitrotoluene is vastly used and valued for both commercial and military use because of its resistance to shock and friction. TNT can be processed mechanically or thermally, which , which can change its typical flake shape and become powdered, pressed or casted.


Since TNT melting temperature is 80 °C, while its detonation point is much higher, it can be relativle sately processed, poured, pressed and combined with other explosives. TNT does not dissolve in water, nor does it absorb it, which considerably simplifies storage. Trinitrotoluene is usually mixed with various other ingredients. Examples of Trinitrotoluene containing explosive blends containing include Tritonal, Amatol, Torpex, Ammonal, Tetrytol, Baratol, Picratol, Ednatol, Pentolite and Octol.


Since its initial discovery, many different variants of TNT with different properties and preferred uses has been developed. Thus, ammonium nitrate based explosives are primarily used in mining in construction, whereas the powerful octanitrocubane is mostly used for military purposes. Plasticizers have enabled the molding of Trinitrotoluene into various shapes, making transportation and handling much more convenient. Finally, shaped charges and other new detonation methods, have widened the applicability of Trinitrotoluene, making it both safer and more powerful.

Global consumption

Global consumption of TNT is projected to increase in the upcoming decade in the metal mining industry, as well as quarrying activities for stone used in construction and cement production. India and China's housing industries are expected to be the primary long-term drivers of growth. Indeed, China's construction sector is projected to spend over 13 trillion dollars annually by 2030.


The growing demand for TNT in the construction industry, as well as its use in "Fracking"- which is a term for shale formation fracturing to extract oil and gas, has led manufacturers to expand production in anticipation of growing markets. However, these efforts have failed to keep pace with other global developments: specifically, the war in Ukraine. The dual use properties of TNT are the source of the current shortage plaguing the construction industry in Europe and beyond. Demand for TNT has driven up the cost of base materials up twofold to threefold, with the manufacturing capacity of European firms unable to keep up with the demand.

REACH - European Union regulation

2,4,6- Trinitrotoluene, as a substance with dual use, is strictly monitored and checked. Both for civil and military use, TNT requires import and export licenses and certifications. For military use, TNT must correspond to specification MIL-T-248. Additionally, to be imported and used in the EC, TNT has to comply with the REACH standards. REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. REACH is a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry.


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