Pentolite is a composite high explosive used for military and civilian purposes, e.g., warheads and booster charges. It is made of pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) phlegmatized with trinitrotoluene (TNT) by melt casting.[1]

Cross-sectional view of Oerlikon 20 mm cannon shells (dating from circa 1945) showing color code for pentolite filling

The most common military variety of pentolite (designated "Pentolite 50/50") is a mixture of 50% PETN and 50% TNT.[1] (Unlike other compound explosives, the number before the slash is the mass percentage of TNT and the second number is the mass percentage of PETN). This 50:50 mixture has a density of 1.65 g/cm3 and a detonation velocity of 7400 m/s.

Civilian pentolite sometimes contains a lower percentage of PETN, usually around 2% ("Pentolite 98/2"), 5% ("Pentolite 95/5") or 10% ("Pentolite 90/10"). Civilian pentolites have a detonation velocity of about 7,800 metres per second.


  1. ^ a b B. M. Dobratz & P. C. Crawford, LLNL Explosives Handbook, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UCRL-52997, Change 2, January 31, 1985.

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