What is the Difference Between TNT and Dynamite

TNT and dynamite are powerful explosives, but they have different compositions and characteristics. Despite their differences, both explosives are essential in mining, construction, and military operations, offering controlled yet powerful energy release when detonated. Understanding the difference between TNT and dynamite helps in selecting the right explosive based on factors like stability, power, and safety.

What is the difference between TNT and dynamite? TNT (trinitrotoluene) is stable and reliable, detonating in a controlled manner. Dynamite, however, is a mixture of nitro-glycerine absorbed into a porous material, making it more volatile and powerful.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is TNT  
      – Definition, Features 
2. What is Dynamite
      – Definition, Features 
3. Similarities Between TNT and Dynamite
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between TNT and Dynamite
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: TNT and Dynamite
      – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

TNT, Dynamite, Trinitrotoluene

Difference Between TNT and Dynamite - Comparison Summary

What is TNT

TNT is an explosive material made up of the chemical compound trinitrotoluene, having a chemical formula C6H2(NO2)3CH3. It has a slightly sweet odor and takes a yellowish crystalline form. It is widely used all around the world as an explosive as it is more stable and reliable as an explosive.

TNT was first found by the German chemist Joseph Wilbrand as a yellow dye. Later, the explosive property of it was discovered, and this property was used for military purposes during World War 1. It was useful in a variety of applications like military munitions, mining, demolitions, and construction as it is resistant to shock and friction and has considerable stability. Its shock and friction-resistant features make it easier to transport and handle, unlike other explosives. It does not explode without a detonator. It is also occasionally used as a reagent in chemical synthesis.


Figure 1: Explosive-grade TNT

TNT is usually mixed with other materials to create explosives that could be used for different applications. One example of such an explosive mixture is mixing TNT with RDX (cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine) in order to increase its explosive power.

Apart from its multiple uses, TNT also has its own set of limitations when in use. Its explosive power is less when compared to other high-power explosives like PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) or HMX (cyclotetramethylenetetranitramine). Furthermore, TNT may cause harm to the environment if it is not handled and disposed of carefully. Its toxicity may also have harmful effects on soil and water bodies.

What is Dynamite

Dynamite is composed of nitro-glycerine, which is highly volatile and sensitive to shock, and is absorbed into an inert substance such as kieselguhr. The absorbent material helps to stabilize the nitro-glycerine to reduce the sensitivity to shock. Mixing nitro-glycerine with the absorbent material is the main chemical reaction in the preparation of dynamite. To stabilize it more, this mixture is again mixed with sodium carbonate and sometimes other chemicals. The resulting paste is packed into cardboard tubes and containers for safe storage and easy transportation. 


Figure 2: Diagram of Dynamite:
A. Absorbent material soaked in nitroglycerin
B. Protective coating surrounding the explosive material
C. Blasting cap
D. Wire connected to the blasting cap

When it is detonated, the reaction it undergoes is highly exothermic, meaning that it releases a lot of energy into the environment. Here, nitroglycerin decomposes into several gases such as nitrogen, water vapor, carbon dioxide, and also some amount of heat. The sudden release of these gases and a large amount of energy from the point of detonation create shock waves, which are capable of causing the surrounding materials to be shattered and displaced.

Dynamite releases a large amount of energy in a controlled manner. This property is useful in various industrial fields such as mining, demolition, and construction.

Similarities Between TNT and Dynamite

  1. They are both powerful explosives that can cause considerable damage to the surroundings.
  2. Both compounds are stable under normal conditions, which makes them safer to handle but with precautions.

Difference Between TNT and Dynamite


  • TNT is a yellow, crystalline solid, while dynamite is a mixture containing TNT, a liquid nitroglycerin, and an absorbent material like sawdust or clay.


  • TNT is more stable than dynamite, and TNT is less sensitive to shock than dynamite, which makes it easier and safer to handle and transport without subjecting to accidental detonation like in dynamite.


  • Dynamite tends to have a more powerful explosive force compared to TNT.


Dynamite’s mixture of nitro-glycerine and absorbent material gives it a volatile and potent edge over the stable TNT. Although TNT is known for its reliability and stability, dynamite’s controlled yet powerful energy release makes it valuable in numerous industrial applications. This is the main difference between TNT and dynamite.

FAQ: TNT and Dynamite

1. What’s stronger, TNT or dynamite?

Dynamite is the most powerful out of TNT and dynamite. It is the inclusion of nitroglycerin in dynamite that gives it a greater capacity for destruction compared to TNT.

2. How powerful is TNT?

The energy released in an explosion of 1 gram of TNT is approximately 4000 Joules. in TNT. TNT’s explosive power is widely used in various military, mining, and demolition applications due to its significant energy release.

3. Is TNT the same as gunpowder?

TNT is not the same as gunpowder. The gunpowder used in modern ammunition burns very fast, but it doesn’t detonate like TNT, which releases energy in a more forceful explosion.

4. Which explosive is more powerful?

HMX is recognized as one of the most powerful high explosives available in industrial production. It exceeds the power of TNT and RDX per unit volume. Moreover, its stability, safe handling, and resistance to temperature changes make it highly valued for various military and industrial uses.

5. What is stronger than TNT?

PETN (Pentaerythritol tetranitrate) is a stronger explosive than TNT. With a higher detonation velocity and energy release, PETN is considered one of the most powerful explosive chemicals available.


1. “Dynamite.” Encyclopedia Britannica.
2. “Trinitrotoluene.” Science Direct.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Dynamite Diagram” By Pbroks13 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Trinitrotoluene” By Daniel Grohmann – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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