How to Make Nitroglycerin



Some source of food rich in triglyceride fats- the best sources are animal fats or vegetable oil, both of which can be found in supermarkets. Alternatively, you can buy glycerin directly if you need a purer product for whatever reason. It is also much easier to produce nitroglycerin and safer.

Concentrated sulfuric acid- can be purchased as drain cleaner at many hardware stores. Potassium nitrate-can be bought online. If you have the two ingredients below already, then you can use those but buying them both new is more expensive than just buying the potassium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate- can be sourced from some instant cold packs
Potassium chloride- can be purchased from supermarkets as a sodium-free salt substitute (Note: it actually tastes terrible).
10% aqueous hydrogen peroxide

Glass beakers
Food dehydrator (if using meat as source of fat)
Plastic spoons
Coffee filters
Magnetic stir bar

Step 1: Making potassium nitrate (note, this step can be skipped if you have bought potassium nitrate directly. Only do this if you already have the below ingredients or cannot buy it online for whatever reason.)

Dissolve 40 grams of ammonium nitrate into 100 ml of water. Do this slowly, as the reaction is highly endothermic which can cool water to dangerous levels. After the ammonium nitrate is dissolved, filter the solution through a coffee filter directly into 37 grams of potassium chloride. Dissolve the potassium chloride and filter the solution one more time for good measure. After that, put it into the freezer. Remove it once crystals have formed at the bottom. These are the potassium nitrate crystals, which have formed due to potassium nitrate being less soluble in cold water than ammonium chloride. Pour off the ammonium chloride solution, and dry the crystals. Small amounts of ammonium chloride on the potassium nitrate will not interfere with later steps. Repeat this until you have 0.97 times the weight of your sulfuric acid in potassium nitrate.

Step 2: Sulfuric acid purification

The first thing you should know is that this extraction should be done outside. Boiling sulfuric acid is extremely stupid. Pour the drain cleaner into a large round-bottom flask with a magnetic stir bar and a magnetic stirring hot plate. Measure out about 300 ml of 10% hydrogen peroxide solution. Be careful you have now created an extremely caustic mixture. Do not spill it. Turn on the stirring and wait until the solution is completely clear and colorless. You can also heat the solution to 50 degrees celsius to increase the speed of the reaction, but don’t go any higher. Once the solution is ready, remove the stir bar. This should be obvious, but don’t remove it by hand. Pull it out using a magnet. Then, place some form of boiling chip in the flask. This can be broken pyrex glass or silicon dioxide sand. Make sure you don’t use anything that will react with piranha solution (the mixture we created earlier of the hydrogen peroxide and sulfuric acid). Turn the heat of your hot plate to around 300 degrees celsius. At first, you will see rapid bubbling. This is a combination of carbon dioxide, which has become less soluble due to increased temperature, and oxygen created from the decomposition of excess hydrogen peroxide. Soon, you will start to see larger bubbles. This is the boiling water. Be extremely careful. Intense bubbling can splash boiling hot sulfuric acid everywhere, and think that is very obviously dangerous. After a while, you will be boiling a mixture of 98% sulfuric acid and 2% water, since the acid has formed an azeotrope. Use your own judgement to decide when this occurs. Once it has, turn down the heat and let the solution cool. This is your 98% sulfuric acid.

Step 3: Creating your nitration bath.

First, you will need to place your conc. sulfuric acid into an ice bath. Then, add in your potassium nitrate. The sulfuric acid reacts with the potassium nitrate to create potassium sulfate and nitric acid. The potassium sulfate can be ignored at this point, since it won’t react with any of your products or reactants.

Step 4: Preparing your glycerin source. Depending on what source you are using, you will need to prepare your glycerides for nitration. If you are using a fatty meat, this means dehydrating it. Any water in the meat will react exothermically with sulfuric acid, heating your mixture up. Hotter temperatures allow the sulfuric acid to pull off more water, repeating until your meat has been dissolved rather than the desired effect of nitration. If you are using vegetable oil, you will need to freeze it to a very low temperature. The best way to do this is to place it in a tub with a block of dry ice. Then, put your block of oil or dried, fatty meat into the nitration bath you prepared earlier.

Step 5: Nitration and nitroglycerin extraction The acids begin to break down the triglycerides in the fat, creating glycerin which is then nitrated to nitroglycerin, or more properly 1,2,3-tris(nitrooxy)propane. Wait until the meat or oil is completely dissolved. You will see a top layer of liquid nitroglycerin. Carefully decant this layer into another beaker and place it in the fridge. It is important to cool it to a temperature between 44 and 55 degrees fahrenheit. Then, add your choice of acetone or ethanol, though acetone is preferred since it is easier to get anhydrously.


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