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How to Make Mercury Fulminate

Mercury fulminate is perhaps one of the oldest known initiating compounds. It
can be detonated by
either heat or shock, which would make it of infinite value to a terrorist. Even
the action of
dropping a crystal of the fulminate causes it to explode. A person making this
material would probably
use the following procedure:
MATERIALS EQUIPMENT
--------- ---------
5 g mercury glass stirring rod

35 ml concentrated 100 ml beaker (2)
nitric acid

ethyl alcohol (30 ml) adjustable heat source

distilled water blue litmus paper

funnel and filter paper

Solvent alcohol must be at least 95% ethyl alcohol if it is used to make mercury
fulminate. Methyl
alcohol may prevent mercury fulminate from forming.

Mercury thermometers are becoming a rarity, unfortunately. They may be hard to
find in most stores as
they have been superseded by alcohol and other less toxic fillings. Mercury is
also used in mercury
switches, which are available at electronics stores. Mercury is a hazardous
substance, and should be
kept in the thermometer or mercury switch until used. It gives off mercury
vapors which will cause
brain damage if inhaled. For this reason, it is a good idea not to spill
mercury, and to always use it
outdoors. Also, do not get it in an open cut; rubber gloves will help prevent
this.
1. In one beaker, mix 5 g of mercury with 35 ml of concentrated nitric acid,
using the glass rod.
2. Slowly heat the mixture until the mercury is dissolved, which is when the
solution turns green and
boils.
3. Place 30 ml of ethyl alcohol into the second beaker, and slowly and carefully
add all of the
contents of the first beaker to it. Red and/or brown fumes should appear. These
fumes are toxic
and flammable.
4. After thirty to forty minutes, the fumes should turn white, indicating that
the reaction is near
completion. After ten more minutes, add 30 ml of the distilled water to the
solution.
5. Carefully filter out the crystals of mercury fulminate from the liquid
solution. Dispose of the
solution in a safe place, as it is corrosive and toxic.
6. Wash the crystals several times in distilled water to remove as much excess
acid as possible. Test
the crystals with the litmus paper until they are neutral. This will be when the
litmus paper
stays blue when it touches the wet crystals
7. Allow the crystals to dry, and store them in a safe place, far away from any
explosive or
flammable material.

This procedure can also be done by volume, if the available mercury cannot be
weighed. Simply use 10
volumes of nitric acid and 10 volumes of ethanol to every one volume of mercury.