How TNT Pop Its Snappers Work

Chemistry of Pop Its

TNT Pop Its Snappers
TNT Pop Its Snappers. Anne Helmenstine

Question: How do TNT Pop Its Snappers work?

Answer: In case you were wondering, 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.