Remediating RDX and HMX Contaminated Soil and Water
WithSteve Comfort
Pages 48

RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine) and HMX (octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine) are two types of heterocyclic nitramine compounds that have been manufactured and used worldwide as military explosives. RDX was first synthesized in 1899 for medicinal purposes but later recognized for its value as an explosive in 1920 (Akhavan 1998). In the 1940s, the Bachmann synthesis was developed and used for large scale production of RDX during World War II (Bachmann and Sheehan 1949). At the time of its development, the Bachmann synthesis was considered an efficient reaction with high yields but the products of the reaction also contained an impurity (i.e., HMX) that was later recognized and utilized as an explosive (Akhavan 1998). By varying the temperature and reagent concentrations, the Bachmann synthesis could produce large yields of HMX (Urbanski 1984). This led to the introduction of octols in 1952, (mixtures of HMX and TNT), which increased HMX use by the military. Depending on where RDX was manufactured and used, it has also been known as Research Development eXplosive (U.S.), Research Department eXplosive (Britain), or Royal Demolition eXplosive (Canada). Other common names for RDX include cyclonite, hexogen, and cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine. HMX has a higher melting point than RDX and is thus known as High Melting explosive, octogen, or cyclotetramethyl-enetetranitramine (Urbanski 1984, Akhavan 1998).