Kinetics of the Alkaline Hydrolysis of Nitrocellulose

Authors: Christodoulatos, Christos; Su, Tsan-Liang; Koutsospyros, Agamemnon

Source: Water Environment Research, Volume 73, Number 2, March/April 2001 , pp. 185-191(7)

Publisher: Water Environment Federation

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Cellulose nitrate (nitrocellulose) is an explosive solid substance used in large quantities in various formulations of rocket and gun propellants. Safe destruction of nitrocellulose can be achieved by alkaline hydrolysis, which converts it to biodegradable products that can then be treated by conventional biological processes. The kinetics of the alkaline hydrolysis of munitions-grade nitrocellulose in sodium hydroxide solutions were investigated in completely mixed batch reactors. Experiments were conducted using solutions of alkaline strength ranging from 0.1 to 15% by mass and temperatures in the range of 30 to 90 °C. Regression analysis of the kinetic data revealed that alkaline hydrolysis of nitrocellulose is of the order 1.0 and 1.5 with respect to nitrocellulose and hydroxide concentration, respectively. The activation energy of the hydrolysis reaction was found to be 100.9 kJ/mol with a preexponential Arrhenius constant of 4.73 × 1013. Nitrite and nitrate, in a 3:1 ratio, were the primary nitrogen species present in the posthydrolysis solution. The kinetic information is pertinent to the development and optimization of nitrocellulose chemical–biological treatment systems.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2001

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

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