This instructable shows an easy way to make nitrocellulose (also known as gun cotton). Nitrocellulose is a fun compound that is safe to handle, burns very fast, and can be used in explosive mixtures like smokeless powder and APNC (acetone peroxide and nitrocellulose), and in fuses, rockets, whatever you can think of.
This isn't the best way to make nitrocellulose. If you want super good nitrocellulose mix concentrated sulfuic acid with concentrated nitric acid 2 to 1 by volume, cool the solution to below 25 degrees F (ice and salt works), then slowly add cotton and let it soak for 12 to 24 hours while keeping the ice fresh. Then clean it with cold water (no baking soda) until there is no acid left. Nitrocellulose made this way can be detonated by hitting a pinch of it with a hammer.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPQxNtG0lYQ My nitrocellulose burning (not as good as the batch in the Instructable)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYPFHhhgbMw Some APNC I made from this and TATP. It will easily detonate unconfined with just heat.
Step 1: Materials
You will need:
-Potassium nitrate (or another nitrate salt)
-mortar and pestel
-a glass cup
-2 containers for water baths
-baking soda (already disolved in water in picture)
-sulfuric acid (mine is drain cleaner)
-Glass stirring thing (mine is part of a broken jar)
Step 2: Make the Nitrating Solution
Pour some of the potassium nitrate into the mortar and pestel and grind it to a fine powder. Next pour an amount of sulfuric acid (a little more than a cotton ball could absorb) into the glass cup. Mix the powdered potassium nitrate into the sulfuric acid a little at a time until it is very cloudy and almost thick with the nitrate. Do this in a well ventilated area because it will form a fuming mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids.
According to Powerlabs, if you want to make cellulose hexanitrate, a very high energy explosive that is about 1.2-1.5 times as strong as TNT when detonated and has a VoD of ~7300m/s then the proportion of sulfuric acid to kno3 should be 1 gram kno3 to 3.819ml (or 3.325 grams) of sulfuric acid.
Step 3: Perform the Nitration
Using the pliers, put a cotton ball into the nitrating solution. Poke it a little with the glass stirring thing to get it to soak up the solution. Now just leave it for a while. I let it sit for about an hour and a half, and it could have gone a little longer. Also make sure it doesn't get to cold or it will take a long time, but nitration is more complete when cold. Since it was like 40 degrees F when I did this my portable heater/ventalation system was set on warm.
This has never happened to me, but if it starts putting out a brown gas throw it into water and start over. That means it is doing "runnaway nitration".
Step 4: Clean and Dry
While you're waiting, put water in your 2 containers, and dissolve some baking soda into one of them.
After you think it has nitrated long enough, pull the cotton ball out of the glass cup and rinse it in the water bath. Then move it to the baking soda bath and nudge it around while the acid is neutralized by the baking soda. When the bubbling slows, replace the water in the plane water bath and rinse it again. Then put it back into the baking soda one and gently move it around until the bubbling completely stops. Then replace the water in the other cup again and rinse it one last time. (Note, I have read that the baking soda washing will partialy decompose the nitrocellulose, so a better cleaning option is to boil it in distilled water and rinse it a lot).
Squeeze the water out of it and fluff it back up into cotton form by gently pulling at it. To speed the drying, press it firmly between two folded halves of a towel (or your shirt). Then fluff it up again and let it dry thoroughly. After that you are done.