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:



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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hard to find in most stores as they have been superseded by alcohol and other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



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.