Alkaline hydrolysis of the cyclic nitramine explosives RDX, HMX, and CL-20 : New insights into the degradation pathways obtained by the observation of novel intermediates

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Proceedings titleEnvironmental Science & Technology
Conference39th International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Congress and 86th Conference of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, August 10-15, 2003, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Pages18381843; # of pages: 6
Subjectenv; chemistry; hydrolysis
AbstractHexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX, I) and octahydro- 1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine (HMX) hydrolyze at pH > 10 to form end products including NO₂⁻, HCHO, HCOOH, NH₃, and N₂O, but little information is available on intermediates, apart from the tentatively identified pentahydro-3,5-dinitro-1,3,5-triazacyclohex-1-ene (II). Despite suggestions that RDX and HMX contaminated groundwater could be economically treated via alkaline hydrolysis, the optimization of such a process requires more detailed knowledge of intermediates and degradation pathways. In this study, we hydrolyzed the monocyclicnitramines RDX, MNX (hexahydro-1-nitroso-3,5-dinitro-1,3,5- triazine), and HMX in aqueous solution (pH 10-12.3) and found that nitramine removal was accompanied by formation of 1 molar equiv of nitrite and the accumulation of the key ring cleavage product 4-nitro-2,4-diazabutanal (4-NDAB, O₂NNHCH₂NHCHO). Most of the remaining C and N content of RDX, MNX, and HMX was found in HCHO, N₂O, HCOOH, and NH₃. Consequently, we selected RDX as a model compound and hydrolyzed it in aqueous acetonitrile solutions (pH 12.3) in the presence and absence of hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HP-β-CD) to explore other early intermediates in more detail. We observed a transient LC-MS peak with a [M-H] at 192 Da that was tentatively identified as 4,6-dinitro-2,4,6-triaza-hexanal (O₂NNHCH₂- NNO₂CH₂NHCHO, III) considered as the hydrolyzed product of II. In addition, we detected another novel intermediate with a [M-H] at 148 Da that was tentatively identified as a hydrolyzed product of III, namely, 5-hydroxy-4-nitro- 2,4-diaza-pentanal (HOCH₂NNO₂CH₂NHCHO, IV). Both III and IV can act as precursors to 4-NDAB. In the case of the polycyclic nitramine 2,4,6,8,10,12-hexanitro-2,4,6,8,10,12- hexaazaisowurtzitane (CL-20), denitration (two NO₂⁻) also led to the formation of HCOOH, NH₃, and N₂O, but neither HCHO nor 4-NDAB were detected. The results provide strong evidence that initial denitration of cyclic nitramines in water is sufficient to cause ring cleavage followed by spontaneous decomposition to form the final products.
Publication date
AffiliationNational Research Council Canada; NRC Biotechnology Research Institute
Peer reviewedNo
NRC number45912
NPARC number18456280
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Record identifiera408154c-fb88-4b87-9324-9a505fab84c7
Record created2011-08-17
Record modified2016-05-09
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