Picric Acid in Japanese explosive rounds
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Thread: Picric Acid in Japanese explosive rounds

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Mandeville LA

    Default Picric Acid in Japanese explosive rounds

    I posted this at the bottom of the "I've been bad" string and thought maybe it would be useful on its own merit. Old explosive is dangerous, you might get away with playing your entire life or the first may be your last. This came from a google search, there is more info out there, all of it negative for activities described. Japanese ordnance used picric acid as an explosive filler, you guess if the one you handle is filled with the substance.

    Mark Cameron, CIH
    Every couple months, an article appears in the local paper about a
    bomb disposal team removing picric acid that was found in a
    laboratory. The material is usually taken to be blown up. So why is
    picric acid considered so dangerous? Well, let’s look at the history of
    the use of Picric Acid and see what can be done to avoid those types
    of situations.
    Picric Acid (2,4,6 Trinitrophenol) is frequently found in forensic laboratories for use in
    the Christmas Tree stain (1) and for Urine detection (2). Histology uses include
    connective tissue stain (Jullien’s picroindogocarmine and Van Gieson’s picro-acid
    fuchsin), cytoplasmic stain (Van Gieson’s with iron hematoxylin), woody sections (picro
    aniline blue) and as a fixative agent (3). It was used in medicinal formulations in the
    treatment of malaria, trichinosis, herpes, smallpox and antiseptics. A one- percent
    solution was also used in the treatment of burns (4).
    British Chemist Peter Woulfe discovered picric acid
    in 1771. Picric acid was named from the Greek word
    , which means “bitter” due to its bitter taste (5).
    It was used to dye silk and wool yellow. Workers
    making picric acid during World War I were called
    “canaries” because their skin was stained yellow (6).
    The explosive characteristics of Picric acid were
    discovered early. In 1885, experiments with picric
    acid were conducted in Lydd, England and the
    English adopted it as an explosive material called

    in 1888. It was used extensively in bombs and
    grenades during World War I (7). Anhydrous Picric
    acid is similar to TNT. It needs usually needs a
    “booster” such as a primer to create the explosion.
    However, as a strong acid, picric acid attacks
    common metals (except tin and aluminum) creating
    explosive salts, which are shock-sensitive. Bombs, mines and grenades were coated with
    tin or ashpatim to prevent the picric acid from contacting the metallic shell (8).
    Several catastrophic events involving picric acid have occurred. On December 6, 1917,
    an ammunition ship in Nova Scotia carrying 2,300 tons of picric acid as well as 400,000
    pounds of TNT caught fire and exploded. Over 1,900 people were killed immediately and
    9,000 were injured (9). Shock-sensitive metal picrates demonstrated their hazardous
    nature on May 1, 1916 when a fire at a French ammunition factory caused molten picric
    acid to flow onto the concrete floor. Calcium picrate was formed and detonated, killing
    170 people (10).

    Have there been any explosions in laboratories? There are no documented instances of
    spontaneous detonation of picric acid in a laboratory (11). The Department of
    Transportation classifies Picric Acid (Trinitrophenol) with less than 30% water by mass
    as a Class 1.1D explosive; with greater than 10% water by volume, it is a class 4.1
    flammable solid (12). In the wetted state, it is unlikely to be an explosive hazard. If a
    bomb squad tries to blow it up, the picric acid will not detonate (13) and will just spread
    picric all over the area!
    The big concern has been with finding dehydrated picric acid. The most dangerous
    situations is if the bottle is old and has a metal cap. Under these circumstances, shock
    sensitive metal picrates may have formed on the cap contact area. Explosive experts
    should be contacted under these situations. Knowledgeable bomb disposal experts will
    use a robot to pick up the container and place it in water to re-hydrate the material (14) or
    remove it for detonation elsewhere.
    If a
    plastic cap is present, and the acid inside has dried, some crystals may be on the
    threads and the friction of removing a plastic cap might be enough to detonate the
    container. Under these circumstances, the container may be safe enough to place in a pail
    of water. Submerge the bottle to allow water to enter the cap and threads and dissolve any
    crystals that might be on the threads. Add ice to cause shrinkage of the bottle to enhance
    penetration of the water. Leave it like this for several days, until water can be seen inside
    the bottle. At this point, it is safe to open the cap and re-hydrate the acid inside (15).
    Whenever in doubt, contact explosives experts.
    Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If
    you really need to have picric acid in your lab, here’s what you
    should do:
    1. Make sure that the picric acid is kept wet! Do not open a
    new bottle until needed. Then date the container to show
    when it was first used to help you in a routine inspection
    program. As part of your lab inspection program, check
    the hydration of your picric acid at least every six months
    and add distilled water as necessary.
    2. Do not use metal spatulas to remove the material.
    3. Be sure to clean the bottleneck, cap and threads with a
    wet cloth before resealing (16).
    4. Get rid of old bottles with metal caps
    5. Do not store large amounts of picric acid. Dispose of
    your picric acid every two years (17).
    6. If possible, eliminate it from your inventory by
    purchasing premixed stains or a 1% solution for using in
    stain preparation.
    If you decide to dispose of your wet picric acid, several options are available. First, you
    could try reducing the picric acid to a non-explosive form using sodium hydroxide and
    sodium sulfide (18). After this treatment, the material will still be toxic and have to be

    disposed of as hazardous waste. Alternatively, it could be manifested as a flammable
    solid for hazardous waste and disposed of by incineration. DO NOT pour it down the
    drain; it could react with copper or iron piping to form the explosive salts.
    As a last consideration, Picric Acid is toxic. Ingestion of 1-2 grams would cause severe
    poisoning. The dust is irritating to the skin and eye. A peculiar effect on the eye is
    “yellow” tainted vision. Systemic poisoning causes headache, vertigo, nausea, vomiting
    and diarrhea. The skin will turn yellow in severe exposures. Red colored urine may be
    produced (19). These symptoms would not expected in the laboratory environment under
    traditional uses.
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
    We would not die in that man's company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.
    From Henry V, Shakespeare

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 1969


    fwiw, hundreds of professional démineurs have been killed over the years cleaning up WWI ordnance in France's fields and forests.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Within earshot of the sound of freedom from Camp Pendleton, Ca


    While traveling in the Verdun batlefield area in 1961, Armed Forces Radio would broadcast warnings to Americans. "If traveling in the Verdun area, do not leave the paved roads. Do not hunt for souviners in the trenches. Sgt Dimwitz' wife Ima, lost her left arm to a grenade while picking up items in the trenches".

    I like seeing the pictures posted of the old battlefields, but I'd rather not read an obituary also.

    Dean (the other one)

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  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007

    Default Picric Acid

    As I said before on the previous thread about this stuff. At least one time a year we answer a call for this stuff. Usually in an old closet in a chem lab that is being cleaned out. I can tell you first hand that if it is dry we will not ship it. It is carefully taken out to a place on the property, put in a hole, and detonated on the spot. I cannot stress enough just how unstable it is in this state. The slightest shock or friction and you will get a detonation. When I say that I mean life changing in the best case life ending in the worst case but one of the two for sure. The above would have been stored in dry conditions for a long time. Never seen any in a cave so I can't make an educated response on that. I would not be throwing it in a can of gas and lighting it (my eyes & hands mean a lot to me) but if other people do they should at least get it on video so we can see lol. Would be neat to see a Japanese grenade go off. I knew a Canal, Tarawa, Saipan/Tinian vet. He was on a .30 water cooled on Saipan when the Japanese made "The Charge" of the war. He said the grenades coming at his hole looked like sparklers coming in. I think that effect was the fuse on those. Good thread Commandant.
    Interested in ALL Japanese Naval items. Also all WW2 USMC items esp Raider & Tarawa items.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 1969


    I read something about the natives in the Truk lagoon area using depth charges that were in the lagoon for 60 years to clear a section of the reef to construct a opening to the ocean. From what I read most charges went off high order from the concussion. They used picric acid as the explosive in the depth charges and it was still blew up after 60 years in the water.
    Last edited by edwardc; 02-08-2011 at 06:43 PM.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Mandeville LA


    We would really need video...sort of like watching flight deck flicks of an aircraft carrier, might hurt, but not for long!
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
    We would not die in that man's company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.
    From Henry V, Shakespeare

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