Friday, June 01, 2012

Pyrotol Catalyst

  • Pyrotol was an explosive available for a time after World War I. It was reprocessed from military surplus cordite and smokeless powder. 
  • Usually used in combination with dynamite, it created an incendiary blast. Since it was very inexpensive, it was often used by farmers to remove tree stumps and clear ditches. Production of pyrotol dwindled in the 1920s after the Bath School disaster where the substance was used to blow up an elementary school and kill 45 people, mostly children. It is likely that production would have dwindled soon anyway, as supplies of military surplus powders ran out.
  • He used a detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. 
  • As rescuers started gathering at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and detonated a bomb inside his shrapnel-filled vehicle with his Winchester rifle, killing himself and the school superintendent, and killing and injuring several others. 
  • During rescue efforts searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds (230 kg) of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol planted throughout the basement of the school's south wing. Kehoe apparently had intended to blow up and destroy the whole school.
  • Pyrotol is also the trademarked name of a catalyst used in the industrial production of benzene through a process known as pyrolysis. It is a proprietary chromium-alumina catalyst manufactured by the Houdry Group of Sud-Chemie Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky and licensed exclusively to ABB Lummus Global. It is completely unrelated to the explosive pyrotol.

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