Nitroglycerine is a clear, oily liquid which also happens to be a powerful, shock sensitive primary high explosive. Nasty stuff. It was the first high explosive to see widespread use - the first real rival to black powder in the role of a practical explosive - but, like many pioneering technologies it had serious drawbacks; not least amongst them the fact that it is a powerful, shock sensitive primary high explosive. Generally, the purer nitrogylcerine is, the more stable it is, but any stability it achieves is purely relative - even on its best days it remains likely to explode if heated, dropped, subjected to friction or looked at in the wrong way (allegedly). It also has a tendency to adsorb moisture from the air and impurities from any container that offers them, meaning that it becomes progressively less stable as it ages - bearing in mind that it was most prevalent in an era before fast, chilled transport with good suspension, it is obvious to see why being an explosives specialist back in the day was not for the faint hearted.
It's also pretty clear how Alfred Nobel got so rich, being the man that made the stuff (relatively) safe to use. As the heir to a family business making Swedish Blasting Oil (Nobel brandname nitroglycerine), he was the inventor of the process by which it could be stabilised by adsorbtion to kiesehlghur - thus creating dynamite.
No sooner was dynamite invented, but criminals seem to have discovered that the nitrogylcerine could be recovered from it for use in jobs like safebreaking … by boiling it in water. Thus giving the user hot, wet, dirty nitro… ingenuity and wisdom are not always issued together.
Besides blowing things up, it was tested as a propellant for ammunition - and found not to be worth the risk.
It is also a strong vasodilator, meaning that it causes blood vessels to relax (as opposed to contracting). As a result of this, the people handling the powerful, shock sensitive primary high explosive do so with a pounding, migraine like headache due to the expansion of blood vessels in the brain. It is, however, good for treating angina and other medical conditions caused by narrowing or tightening of the blood vessels, delivered either as a spray under the tongue or a transdermal patch.
When applying an AED to a heart casualty, make sure you check them for nitro patches to avoid the patches bursting into flames when the AED kicks.
Game and Story Use
- Transporting nitroglycerine can be a fun job for PC's looking for employment; especially in third-world countries with dangerous roads.
- A criminal PC who's an experienced safecracker probably also has experience with nitroglycerine. He might not have all his fingers, tho'…