What is PETN?

What is PETN?

  • It is a highly explosive organic compound belonging to the chemical family same as of nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose.


Origin of PETN

  • PETN was first prepared and patented in 1894 by the explosives manufacturer Rheinisch-Westfalische Sprengstoff in Germany.
  • It was introduced as a commercial explosive after World War I.


How does it operate?

  • PETN does not go on its own and is stable, safe to handle
  • The explosive needs a secondary detonating mechanism to produce heat or a shockwave, which can detonate the explosive.



  • It is a sensitive compound and is easily detonated by an appropriate mechanical shock and is one of the most powerful explosive materials known.



  • The deadly explosive is valued in both military and civilian applications for its shattering force and efficiency.
  • Mixed with the extremely powerful compound RDX in an appropriate solvent, PETN forms a plastic explosive mixture known as Semtex.


Versatile weapon

  • PETN is a valued weapon in terrorist bombings, because of:
  1. Its explosive power.
  2. Its ability to be moulded and fitted into unusual packages.
  3. It cannot be easily detected because of its colourless crystals.
  4. Difficulty of detecting the organic compound with X-ray and other conventional equipment.
  5. It can be kept hidden in a sealed container or an electrical equipment and can easily surpass security checks.
Section : Science & Tech