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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

How TNT Pop Its Snappers Work

By May 31, 2014

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TNT Pop Its Snappers (Anne Helmenstine)In case you were wondering, TNT Pop Its don't contain TNT. That is simply their brand name. Pop Its are trick noisemaker "rocks", commonly seen around the 4th of July and other holidays, that pop when they are stepped on or thrown against a hard surface. They look like little paper-wrapped rocks, which, in fact, is what they are.

The rock is rock or sand that has been soaked in silver fulminate. Silver fulminate (like mercury fulminate, which would be toxic) is explosive. However, the quantity of fulminate in Pop Its is very small so the little exploding rocks are safe. Fulminates are easily prepared by reacting metal with concentrated nitric acid. You don't want to go making this in any quantity yourself because the fulminate is shock sensitive and pressure sensitive. However, if you decide to make do-it-yourself Pop Its, the silver fulminate is more stable if flour or starch is added to the crystals during the filtering process.


June 10, 2009 at 11:07 am
(1) Steel says:

Cool! I wondered how those worked. Now I know. :)

December 22, 2009 at 2:46 pm
(2) Lovro says:

Oh cool. I thought it was gunpowder and flint.

August 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm
(3) hunter aho says:

Thanks a lot i was wondering how it worked

May 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm
(4) person says:

Cool love them I put them in my dads bed lol

June 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm
(5) jordan says:

sweet, i put these under my grandmas car tires, scared the hell out of her when she backe out to go to work :)

June 29, 2013 at 2:26 pm
(6) Drake says:

Metal +Nitric Acid is short a C for a fulminate…

July 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm
(7) noah worden says:

i was wondering do they leave marks if you throw them on the house or something white?

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