Nitrogen Triiodide




Introduction: Nitrogen Triiodide

About: Working wireless-ly.


Odds are that you've seen a demonstration of this stuff before, most likely in your high school chemistry class. It is a highly sensitive contact explosive made from two ingredients ammonia and iodine crystals. It is so sensitive when dry it can be set off by a feather or even a fly. The last time I made this was years ago for a science project. It was the middle of winter and I had been setting off batches of this stuff in my backyard all day. When night fell it started lightly snowing, the snow flakes fell to the ground and set off minute traces of the NI3. The resulting snaps were loud enough to wake up my mom who then woke me up and told me to do something about it. I wasnt really sure what to do about it so I filled up a bucket of water and threw it out over the pavement, setting off hundreds of little snaps which each gave off tiny poofs of purple smoke.

It has got to be one of the most surreal memories I have, being out in the moonlight while snowflakes gently floated down, causing the dead silence to be broken by little purple snaps going off everywhere.

Heres the wiki for it nitrogen triiodide

Step 1: Materials

Iodine crystals.
Can be bought on e-bay,, or
That last one is a forensics website. Iodine crystals are used in a fingerprint lifting process called iodine fuming. As you can see on the label on the jar, the gas from the crystals has stained the paper to a dark purple color. Iodine gas is toxic, so do this experiment in a well ventilated area.

The purer the better. I use clear ammonia available almost anywhere. The store bought stuff is actually Ammonium hydroxide, meaning that it is ammonia dissolved in a ton of water. If for some reason you have access to highly concentrated ammonia the resulting nitrogen triiodide will be much more powerful, and therefore handled much more carefully.

A tupperware container
Coffee filters

Step 2: Mix It Up

Fill the container up with enough ammonia to completely submerge any crystals you put in. Spoon in the crystals, I highly recommend using a very small amount of crystals the first time (pencil eraser sized) so if you accidentally set it off you have less of a chance of injury.

Let the crystals sit for a few hours, I normally just leave them overnight and use them the next day. Overnight the nitrogen atoms from the ammonia will get it on with the iodine atoms and NI3 will result. I know what your thinking, nitrogen is a dirty for taking 3 iodine's at once, but who are you to judge, we've all done things were not proud of to make ends meet.

You, now have the extremely unstable compound NI3. It is relitavely safe to handle while it is still wet, but that is no guarantee of anything, it has been known to go off while still damp. So from this point on be very cautious around it.

Step 3: Filter It Out

Pour the ammonia container and iodine crystals through the coffee filter, and then quickly while it is still damp move the filtered crystals to where you want to set them off. It is not a good idea to do what I am doing in the picture and hold the coffee filter in your hand, I used water for the photos so it is not actual NI3 (it was raining outside, and I didnt want to have to deal with setting it off). Once the crystals are settled in their final resting place, wait for them to dry, which can vary from 30 min to a few hours. Use a long stick to set them off.



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    160 Discussions

    I have a simple idea for a safer way to set this stuff off. I may post an 'ible on it once I've had a chance to test it out. It could also be used quite easily in a grenade.

    7 replies

    Are you kidding? You clearly have no idea of what you are dealing with.

    If you put it in a grenade the only thing you'll blow up is yourself. It is SUPER unstable. DO NOT DO IT.

    The moment you pick up the grenade, it'll explode in a fraction of a second. Also the purple gas will inflame your lungs and eyes if contacted or inhaled. But other than that, you'll be ok... I guess.. Speaking of which, what is the name of that purple gas that is expelled after the explosion?

    "It could also be used quite easily in a grenade." It is glaringly obvious that you have never synthesized even a mg of this compound. Learn to respect chemicals before you attempt making gram quantities of high explosives, or any other chemical compound not found at the corner store, for that matter.

    Please, should you try anything with this, rather consult the "old man" - I'd gladly help out with instructions, even send you the stuff, if you agree to be careful.

    Hi Dr Kaz,

    Firstly, I'm an author, so have no intention of trying this out.

    I'm looking into how to use Nitrogen Triiodide as an explosive for my story. I understand that it is highly volatile when dry, but more stable when wet. I want my character to be able to handle to explosive before needed.

    Would it be possible to package it when damp, and set it off by engulfing it in flames (for example: firing a burning arrow at it)?

    Kind regards

    Greetings, an explosive like Acetone or Butanone Peroxide would do fine for that sort of scenario.

    I was talking about my way of setting it off, not about the actual substance being used in a grenade.

    I am not a chemist. Im actually writing a scenerio and I dont know how but is there a way to crystalize this stuff? Like Heisenberg did? I want to add it but i must make sure it can be done. I dont need fully %100 instroctions. I just need a simple explain.With couple of steps. (step 1 like this, then step 4 then step ?.) I need those to add my comic. thanks and sorry for my bad english.


    2 years ago

    Does it work as a primer? I'm messing around with the idea of making some kind of low-powered incendiary/explosive arrows and was wondering if the nitrogen triiodide would make a spark sufficient to ignite some flammable substance

    2 replies

    it could possibly work however as I understand it is very delicate so the wind resistance could be enough to set it off mid flight

    I wouldn't do that. It's SUPER unstable. The last time I made some I left it out on a paving slab, totally covered with an upside down metal tin to keep the breeze off and it still exploded on its own.

    I found that the best way to make NI3 is to dissolve the iodine in a solution of potassium iodide and water. Then add ammonium hydroxide and filter the precipitate. After initial filtering, I added more pure ammonium hydroxide to wash away any other byproducts. It is possible water would have worked as well, but I never tried that.

    I made this in high school. I kept the wet substance in a plastic pill-bottle (Excedrin) with a snap on cap. There were no problems as long as I kept it wet. I put a tiny amount on the "lead" end of a pencil and pulled the pencil back with a fingerand let it go while holding the eraser end of the pencil in my other hand. This caused the tiny blob of NI3 to hit the floor with enough force that it split into hundreds of almost invisible particles. The particles were small enough that they would dry within a minute or so. Then anyone walking across the floor would hear this snap, snap, snap everywhere they went. I also put a pea-sized piece on some paper and threw it into a waste basket. About an hour later, a teacher threw another paper into that wastebasket. BOOM! It was so loud that everyone in the school heard it. I was nearly expelled.

    But the other writers are correct. This stuff will explode with the slightest provocation when dry. It will even explode if warmed by the sun (such as on a window-sill). It cannot be used safely for anything. I made a whole Excedrin bottle full and kept in my pocket for days. I am lucky that nothing really bad happened. My belief is that you would be safer making nitroglycerine.

    This stuff was used by the French Underground because the ingredients wouldn't attract negative attention. It's a fairly brisant stuff, and very unstable.

    If the author wanting to use it in a story is still watching, it already was. Check out Robert A. Heinlein's book "Farnham's Freehold". That's where I learned about it, then researched it at college and made some. It's fun, but in any serious quantity it's horribly dangerous.


    2 years ago

    Made this 35 years ago. Used the iodine crystals and a very strong ammonia that was for a blueprint machine. As I recall, the crystals turned almost clear and the smoke was almost colorless. Left some on the dark rug outside the bosses office and watched the fun.

    1 reply

    I made some of this many years ago. I had ground the iodine crystals to a fine powder before adding the ammonium hydroxide. The black sludge at the bottom of the 10 ml beaker reminded me of gun powder. I used an eye dropper to place small dots of it on door handles and light switches. All was well until the remainder was placed on a shelf and forgotten for a week. The liquid completely evaporated leaving perhaps 1 to 2 ml of the explosive mixture in the bottom of the beaker. When this was played with after a lab, a small quantity fell out and exploded, causing what was in the beaker to also explode. There was a tremendous noise and a huge cloud of purple covering a large part of the chem lab. The teacher still has a slightly bent finger, due to a severed tendon and vein. Which leads me to this: Be very careful what you do with the end product. For its size, it can pack a real wallop.

    COMMENT TO AUTHOR: Please add a disclaimer to wear saftey glasses, and gloves while playing with this stuff.

    2 replies

    COMMENT TO JOLLYRGR: No, if you don't know the SOP for handling chemicals you shouldn't be attempting this.

    does liquid iodine work the same or must it be solid because i cant get iodine crystals/powder only iodine powder already dissolved in alchohol btw cloudy ammonia contains soap and soap as you know is slippery even when dry , and also as you know nitrogen triiodide is friction sensitive mix that with soap and its pretty much useless btw again can i evapourate the iodine solution to make powder and also can you get the soap out of the cloudy ammonia warning the government is slowly eradicating clear ammonia from grocery stores because they know that nitrogen triiodide can be made with it sorry this is so long but can you evapuorate cloudy ammonia into another bottle and will it pickup the ammonia in the vapure or will it be left behind with the soap as a salt?