Chemistry and Chemical Biology ETDs


Thomas Rivera

Publication Date



A continuous precipitation method for the preparation of crystalline pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) has been developed. The process involves the precipitation of PETN from an acetone solution by the addition of water in a static mixer. The principal independent variable is the ratio, R, of the acetone-PETN solution flow rate to the flow rate of water.

A mathematical model based on dispersed plug-flow equations adequately represents the physical process. The relationships developed can be used to predict particle size distributions, two explosion properties of PETN, and estimate the effective kinetics involved in the precipitation process. The mass-weighted mean particle size, L, of the precipitated PETN is a linear function of R. The initial nucleation and growth rates are exponentially decaying functions of R. The nucleation exponent is 3.75 ± 0.05; the growth rate exponent is 1.56 * 0.02. The value of the diffusion parameter, Pe, is 51 ± 1. Experimentally determined PETN initiation-threshold voltages can be expressed as a second degree polynomial in L, with a minimum at about 50 μm. Observed PETN explosion transit times follow a third degree polynomial in L, increasing with increasing particle size.

Project Sponsors

The Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

First Committee Member (Chair)

Fritz Schreyer Allen

Second Committee Member

William Fletcher Coleman

Third Committee Member

Robert T. Paine Jr.

Fourth Committee Member

Robert H. Dinegar