Obtainment of a very unstable substance that explodes on impact

Scientific name: Synthesis and decomposition with explosion of mercury fulminate


MERCURY FULMINATE (explosive) demonstration

by Basco36

Mercury Fulminate Synthesis

by Xfactor Chem

How to make Mercury Fulminate

by Nile Red

Breaking Bad Special: Mercury Fulminate | MythBusters

by Discovery

breaking bad mercury

by Promoeclub

Mercury (II) fulminate

by Explosiopedia

Mercury fulminate synthesis

by Diazodinitrophenol


Wear eye protection goggles. Use gloves. Nitrogen oxides are poisonous gases! Perform the reaction in a hood or outdoors. Work away from flammable objects.

Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

Hg + 4 HNO3 → Hg(NO3)2 + 2 NO2 + 2 H2O

Hg(NO3)2 + 3 C2H5OH → Hg(OCN)2 + 2 CH3CHO + 5 H2O

4 Hg(CNO)2 → 2 CO2 + N2 + HgO + 3 Hg(OCN)CN

Hg(CNO)2 → 2 CO + N2 + Hg

Hg(CNO)2 → :Hg(OCN)2

2 Hg(CNO)2 → 2 CO2 + N2 + Hg + Hg(CN)2

Step-by-step instruction

WARNING! This experiment is dangerous! You should NOT perform this at home. ONLY carry out this experiment, if you are a trained chemist, and you understand local safety and legal requirements, which are required to perform such experiments

  1. Pour 7 mL of concentrated nitric acid into a test tube.
  2. Add 7 g of mercury into the test tube.
  3. After about 20 minutes, the mercury should be completely dissolved. The solution, thus, becomes yellow.
  4. Pour 10 ml of ethanol in a vial.
  5. Pour the contents of the test tube into the vial.
  6. After a while, the solution should boil. The reaction is complete after the boiling stops.
  7. Dilute the resulting mixture with water. Wait for the precipitate to settle down.
  8. Wash the precipitate with water several times.
  9. Transfer the substance together with the water into the container for storage.
  10. Take a small portion of the substance, dry it on paper, then, hit it with a hammer.
  11. Observe the explosion.

Scientific background

Fulminates have a very unusual structure. A metal binds to the acid anion is through the carbon atom unlike the same situation with cyanates and isocyanates, bounding in which occurs through oxygen or nitrogen. Such molecules have positively and negatively charged fragments. For this reason, mercury fulminate is very unstable and explodes from external influences.


Published on 30 June 2015

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst