Nitrocellulose has long been used in a variety of industrial and commercial applications due to its ability to create strong and durable bonds. But how flammable is this material?
In this blog, we’ll explore the flammability and safety of nitrocellulose and how it compares to other materials.
Get ready to find out more about this fascinating material and its potential hazards!
- 1 What Is Nitrocellulose?
- 2 Is Nitrocellulose Flammable?
- 3 Is Nitrocellulose Explosive?
- 4 What Temperature Does Nitrocellulose Ignite?
- 5 Is Nitrocellulose Toxic
- 6 Uses Of Nitrocellulose
- 7 Nitrocellulose Hazards
- 8 Is Nitrocellulose Corrosive
- 9 Nitrocellulose Flash Point
- 10 What Is The Flammable Range Of Nitrocellulose
- 11 Nitrocellulose VS Polyurethane
- 12 Safety Precautions While Handling Nitrocellulose
- 13 Conclusion
What Is Nitrocellulose?
Nitrocellulose, also known as cellulose nitrate or guncotton, is a highly flammable and explosive compound made by nitrating cellulose with a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid.
It is a type of thermoplastic material that is soluble in certain organic solvents, such as acetone, alcohol, and ether. Nitrocellulose has been used in a variety of industrial and commercial applications, including in the manufacture of explosives, lacquers, coatings, and plastics.
It is also used in the production of photographic film, as well as in some medical and surgical applications. Due to its flammable and explosive properties, nitrocellulose should be handled and stored with care to avoid accidents or unintended explosions.
Is Nitrocellulose Flammable?
It is not recommended that nitrocellulose be stored in areas that are regularly exposed to sources of heat or sparks, such as near a furnace or a welding station.
Nitrocellulose is also highly sensitive to friction. If it is rubbed or scratched, it can easily ignite. In fact, friction is often used as a means to detonate nitrocellulose explosives.
Due to this, it is essential that nitrocellulose is handled with caution, and is never left in an area where it could be subjected to friction.
Nitrocellulose is also sensitive to ultraviolet light; exposure to intense sunlight or fluorescent lighting can cause it to ignite. This is why nitrocellulose is usually stored indoors and away from direct sunlight.
Is Nitrocellulose Explosive?
Yes, nitrocellulose is explosive. It is highly sensitive to heat, shock, and friction and can detonate if it is exposed to a spark or flame.
The explosive properties of nitrocellulose are due to the nitration process that introduces nitrogen-containing groups into the cellulose molecule, making it more susceptible to combustion.
The degree of nitration determines the explosive power of nitrocellulose, with higher degrees of nitration resulting in more powerful explosives.
Nitrocellulose has been used in a variety of explosive applications, including in the manufacture of propellants, blasting agents, and pyrotechnics. Due to its explosive properties, nitrocellulose should be handled and stored with care to avoid accidents or unintended explosions.
What Temperature Does Nitrocellulose Ignite?
The temperature at which nitrocellulose ignites can vary depending on the specific formulation and conditions. However, in general, nitrocellulose can ignite at temperatures above approximately 170-180°C (338-356°F).
This temperature is known as the autoignition temperature, which is the temperature at which a substance will spontaneously ignite without the need for a spark or flame.
It is important to note that various factors, including the degree of nitration, particle size, moisture content, and the presence of other substances, can influence the ignition temperature of nitrocellulose.
For example, finely divided nitrocellulose is more prone to spontaneous ignition than larger particles, and nitrocellulose contaminated with water or other substances may have a lower ignition temperature.
Due to the high risk of fire and explosion associated with nitrocellulose, it should be handled and stored with care, and appropriate safety measures should be taken to prevent accidental ignition.
Is Nitrocellulose Toxic
Nitrocellulose is a commonly used chemical in the manufacturing and chemical industries, and as such, it is important to consider its safety and toxicity.
When heated, nitrocellulose can create highly toxic fumes, and once the combustion has occurred, it can create a dangerous and difficult-to-extinguish fire.
When ingested, these toxins can cause serious health problems, including dizziness, nausea, headache, and even death in extreme cases.
Inhaling the fumes of burning nitrocellulose can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as headaches, drowsiness, and coughing.
In addition, nitrocellulose can also be highly combustible and should be handled with extreme care. It is important to wear protective clothing when dealing with nitrocellulose, as even small amounts of heat or sparks can cause an explosion.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to reduce the risk associated with nitrocellulose. Proper storage is key, as any containers of nitrocellulose should be kept in a dry, cool place away from heat or open flames.
It is also important to practice fire safety when handling nitrocellulose, as any sparks can cause the material to ignite.
Uses Of Nitrocellulose
Nitrocellulose has been used in a variety of industrial, commercial, and consumer applications, including:
Explosives: Nitrocellulose is used as a base material for manufacturing a wide range of explosives, such as smokeless powders, propellants, and blasting agents.
Coatings and Inks: Nitrocellulose is used to produce coatings and inks, such as lacquers and varnishes, due to its high solubility in organic solvents.
Plastics: Nitrocellulose produces plastics, such as celluloid and cellophane, with high transparency and toughness.
Medical Applications: Nitrocellulose is used in medical and surgical applications, such as wound dressings and implantable devices.
Photographic Film: Nitrocellulose is used in the production of photographic film due to its ability to absorb and hold light-sensitive compounds.
Adhesives: Nitrocellulose is used to produce adhesives and binders, such as for bookbinding, due to its ability to dissolve in organic solvents.
Cleaning Agents: Nitrocellulose is used in some cleaning agents, such as nail polish removers, due to its ability to dissolve in organic solvents.
Due to its explosive properties, the use of nitrocellulose is strictly regulated, and appropriate safety measures must be taken during handling, storage, and transportation.
Nitrocellulose is a hazardous material due to its explosive properties, and appropriate safety measures should be taken during its handling, storage, and transportation. Here are some of the hazards associated with nitrocellulose:
Explosive: Nitrocellulose is highly explosive and can detonate if exposed to a spark or flame. It is sensitive to heat, shock, and friction, and can ignite spontaneously under certain conditions.
Toxicity: Nitrocellulose can release toxic fumes and gases when burned, which can cause respiratory problems and other health effects.
Sensitizer: Prolonged or repeated exposure to nitrocellulose can sensitize the skin, causing allergic reactions.
Environmental Hazard: Nitrocellulose can harm the environment if released into the air, water, or soil. It can contaminate water sources and harm aquatic life.
Corrosive: Nitrocellulose can be corrosive to some metals and can cause damage to equipment and containers.
To minimize the hazards associated with nitrocellulose, it is important to follow appropriate safety measures, such as wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, storing nitrocellulose in designated areas away from sources of heat and ignition, and handling it with care to avoid sparks, friction, or impact.
Is Nitrocellulose Corrosive
In short, the answer is yes, nitrocellulose is corrosive. Nitrocellulose is derived from cellulose, which is a long-chain polymer found in plant cell walls. Nitrocellulose is formed when nitric and sulfuric acids are added to the cellulose, causing a reaction that produces nitrocellulose.
This material is highly flammable and it is also corrosive.
Nitrocellulose is a combustible material and can be used in explosives. It is also used in lacquers, varnishes, and paints, as it forms a strong bond with surfaces on contact. This makes it a useful material, but it also means that nitrocellulose can be corrosive when it comes into contact with certain surfaces.
Nitrocellulose can cause corrosion to metals, as it can react with the metal to form a corrosive product.
In addition, nitrocellulose can also cause corrosion to other materials, such as rubber and plastics, as the nitric and sulfuric acids used to form the material can react with these materials.
Nitrocellulose can also be corrosive to human skin, as it can cause irritation and burns if it comes into contact with the skin.
Due to the potentially corrosive nature of nitrocellulose, it is important to take precautions when handling the material.
Nitrocellulose should be stored in an airtight container, and any potential contact with the material should be avoided as much as possible.
Nitrocellulose should also be handled with caution and protective gear should be worn when handling the material.
Nitrocellulose Flash Point
The flash point of nitrocellulose can vary depending on the specific formulation and degree of nitration. Generally, the flash point of nitrocellulose is between 120-170°C (248-338°F).
However, it is important to note that nitrocellulose is highly flammable and can ignite easily, even below its flash point, due to its sensitivity to heat, shock, and friction.
Therefore, appropriate safety measures should always be taken when handling nitrocellulose to minimize the risk of fire or explosion.
|Flash point||150-180°C (302-356°F)|
|Autoignition temperature||320-400°C (608-752°F)|
|Flammable range||3-18% (volume in air)|
|Explosive limits||5.7-12.5% (volume in air)|
|Fire hazards||Highly flammable, can ignite easily in the presence of heat, sparks or flames|
|Firefighting methods||Use water spray, foam, or dry chemical powder to extinguish fires. Do not use direct water streams.|
Note: The values provided in the table may vary depending on nitrocellulose’s specific type and composition.
What Is The Flammable Range Of Nitrocellulose
When it is exposed to heat or open flames, nitrocellulose can burn rapidly and with little warning. The flammable range of nitrocellulose is the heat required for the material to ignite and burn.
The lower the number, the more quickly the material will catch fire.
The flammable range of nitrocellulose is typically between 400 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the material will ignite almost immediately and continue to burn until completely consumed.
However, if the heat source is raised to higher temperatures, the material will become even more flammable, with the potential to cause a fire that can spread rapidly.
It is important to note that the flammable range of nitrocellulose can vary depending on the particular product being used.
Different nitrocellulose products will have different flammable ranges, which should be considered when using the material in any application.
When handling nitrocellulose, it is important to take extreme care around heat sources, open flames, and combustible materials.
Always keep the material from high temperatures, and take extra precautions when working with any nitrocellulose. It is also important to ensure that any products containing nitrocellulose are stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, heat, and flame.
Nitrocellulose VS Polyurethane
Nitrocellulose is a type of nitrocellulose lacquer, which is a common material used in the production of musical instruments, furniture, and other products. It is made by combining cellulose with nitric acid and is typically used as a clear topcoat or finish to seal or protect the surface of an item.
Nitrocellulose is known for its strong adhesion, durability, glossy finish, and ability to conform to the material it is being applied to easily.
It is also very resistant to cracking, chipping, and fading, making it an excellent choice for wood surfaces.
On the other hand, polyurethane is a type of plastic-based coating commonly used to produce furniture and other products. It is made by combining two chemicals, polyols and isocyanates.
Polyurethane is known for its versatility, as it can be used as a clear coat, a colorant, or as a protective sealant for many different surfaces. Polyurethane is often used to coat or seal wood surfaces, as it is very durable and resistant to cracking, chipping, fading, and other damage.
Now that we’ve discussed the differences between nitrocellulose and polyurethane, let’s examine their advantages and disadvantages.
Nitrocellulose is known for its strong adhesion, durability, and glossy finish, making it an excellent choice for wood surfaces.
However, nitrocellulose is also known for its flammability and its tendency to yellow over time.
Polyurethane, on the other hand, is a versatile material that is resistant to cracking, chipping, and fading, and can be used to protect and seal many different surfaces.
However, polyurethane is not as strong as nitrocellulose and is known to yellow, crack, and chip over time.
Safety Precautions While Handling Nitrocellulose
Handling nitrocellulose requires strict adherence to safety precautions to prevent accidents and minimize risks. Here are some safety precautions to follow while handling nitrocellulose:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Always wear appropriate PPE, including gloves, safety glasses, and a respirator, to protect yourself from the harmful effects of nitrocellulose.
Ventilation: Work in a well-ventilated area to reduce the risk of inhalation of harmful fumes.
Fire Safety: Nitrocellulose is highly flammable, so keeping it away from heat sources and open flames is important. Smoking should be prohibited in the work area.
Storage: Store nitrocellulose in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area, away from heat sources and incompatible materials.
Handling: Nitrocellulose should be handled with care to avoid exposure to heat, sparks, or friction. It should be transported in approved containers and labeled properly.
Emergency Response: In case of a spill or accident involving nitrocellulose, follow appropriate emergency response procedures, such as evacuation, containment, and cleanup.
It is also important to have proper training and knowledge about the properties and hazards of nitrocellulose before handling it.
Employers should provide appropriate training and resources to ensure nitrocellulose’s safe handling and storage.
Nitrocellulose is highly flammable and can ignite easily in the presence of heat, sparks, or flames. It has a low flash point, and once ignited, it can burn rapidly and explosively.
Therefore, it is important to handle nitrocellulose with extreme care and take necessary safety precautions to minimize the risks of fire or explosion.
Hi, I m Aaron Smith, a firefighter, and creator of Firefighterline.com, a website that provides top-notch training courses for firefighting organizations. After completing my studies, I quickly rose through the fire service ranks, eventually becoming Captain at one of the busiest fire departments in the state.