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I'm basically searching for an ATP that can be used to supply cells and also have its energy extracted efficiently into a basic form of explosive material (the stronger the better) without a lot of additional energy being added.

I'll need it to explain why my alien species used explosives long before they knew about chemistry. Some big animal and a form of bacteria would be able to produce it naturally. Until I know more, I'm not willing to accept other solutions.

How would the 'nourishment-molecule' be transformed into the 'explosive-salt'?

The way I formulated it, I'm not sure how broad the answers to this question might have to get. If you have the knowhow, I'd also be glad for hints or rules that help me to improve my question.

Thanks.

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    $\begingroup$ "Do not throw into the fire or short circuit as the battery might explode" $\endgroup$ Dec 3 '19 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ This seems back to front, and a classic XY problem, where you want to solve issue X, but instead you're asking about a (possibly incorrect) approach Y instead. $\endgroup$ Dec 3 '19 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ Would this not be the equivalent of a human cutting of a finger and using it as a grenade? Isn't injuring/maiming yourself an evolutionary tactic likely to be selected against? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Dec 3 '19 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ This question would seemed to be served better if you wanted an organic fungus-type plant which produced explosive altruistically to deter predators, rather than incorporating them into large animals. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Dec 3 '19 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime Your assumption is possibly incorrect ;) $\endgroup$ Dec 4 '19 at 10:58
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Two possibilities:

1) You want a dust explosion.

There are lots of materials that, if you have a pile of them or if they are at all wet, then they won't burn very well at all. Consider ordinary wheat flour, for example. A pile of flour will work quite well to extinguish small flames. And you don't need to be concerned about having many 10's of kg of flour in your kitchen close to your stove. It's less flammable than, for example, paper.

But toss it into the air as a fine powder, and suddenly you've got quite the amazingly explosive material. Such that "disappearing flour mill" is actually a thing. They need to take quite drastic steps to prevent the dust from hanging in the air, and from the small amount that is unavoidable ever getting an ignition source.

So a critter with a dry pouch full of something similar to flour, and a small ignition source, could in essence have a one-shot flame thrower. Blow the dust then ignite it. That would get the attention of a lot of potential predators. In the right circumstances it could be used to do a lot of destruction.

2) You want gun cotton.

Nitrocellulose, or gun cotton, is made from nitric acid and cellulose. The reaction is fairly easy to produce, and isn't particularly difficult to control as long as you keep any ignition source well away.

Nitric acid is produced in small quantities by many organisms. So it is reasonable that it might be produced just as fast as it was used by the reaction, keeping the net concentration low.

Nitrocellulose is even a potentially useful building material for the bomb itself. It's quite hard and "springy." It can be used (with some chemicals added to reduce the explosive nature) to make such things as billiard balls. This meant that, before the anti-explosive was added, disappearing billiard halls were occasionally a thing. You see, it was once the habit for the winner of the game to stub out his cigarette on the cue ball. Boom!

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  • $\begingroup$ I really like gun cottons reaction and composition. thanks a lot. Are you certain that there's no other, better solution? $\endgroup$ Dec 4 '19 at 14:58
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I'm basically searching for an ATP that can be used to supply cells and also have its energy extracted efficiently into a basic form of explosive material (the stronger the better) without a lot of additional energy being added.

By replacing ATP you have completely upended the metabolic processes behind the cell to the point where it may as well be completely alien. It would be very weird to have two completely alien biochemistries living side by side, especially to the scale of "large animals" with the explosive metabolism.

Instead, I propose that you use a regular metabolism, but add some additional chemicals used as longer-term energy storage mechanism. One I particularly like is the peroxide-based metabolic boost from the Epona worldbuilding project, where some animals store small quantities of ethanol and peroxide which are released into the blood stream under periods of stress to provide oxygen to metabolic processess at a greatly enhanced rate, for a short period of time. Such organisms could be very dangerous if provoked, but if ambushed and dispatched quickly, or correctly poisoned (with some sort of narcotic, probably), they could be taken down with their peroxide stores intact. The stored liquids would be found by anyone butchering the animals, and their interesting effects might be discovered relatively early on.

Concentrating peroxide is technically straightfoward, though somewhat hazardous. I wouldn't necessarily want to be doing it over an open fire with glazed pottry but, y'know, it could be done. Once you've got the strong stuff there's plenty of scope for mixing it with other fun things, many of which will just catch fire but with other things it will absorb into them and form the basis of a rather unstable explosive, incendiary weapon or even rocket fuel...

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  • $\begingroup$ very interesting read, thanks $\endgroup$ Dec 4 '19 at 12:41
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When it come to energy release, the difference between an explosion and not is simply in the reaction rate: a fast reaction leads to a equally fast energy release, thus an explosion.

Therefore if you want an ATP bomb, just have a lot of ATP reacts really quickly. Maybe you can remove the controlling enzimes, and let the reaction runaway.

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Your explosive salt is saltpeter.

http://www.salt.org.il/frame_saltpet.html

Nitre, potassium nitrate KNO3, more commonly knownas saltpetre, is formed in warm climates by bacterial action during the decomposition ofexcreta and vegetable refuse. Where people and animals live in close proximity, debrisaccumulates in and around their homes. The contact between putrefying material, alkalinesoil, plant ashes, air and moisture allows 'nitrification' - that is the conversion ofnitrogen compounds from animal and plant decay into nitrates which penetrate the soil.Dissolved in rainwater, the deposits evaporate on the surface to form crude saltpetre,as a white flower like powder. This must be washed to remove earth and impurities;then boiled and evaporated to refine it.

Bacteria in the right circumstance use ATP, decompose materials, and form a waste product saltpeter which accumulates in the soil and can crystalize out if not washed away. Saltpeter is the oxidizer which makes up 70% of gunpowder, the remainder mostly being charcoal that is oxidized. The saltpeter by providing oxidant mixed finely with the charcoal allows the charcoal to burn faster than it could in air - so fast that it produces an explosion.

People made gunpowder long before they knew chemistry. Gunpowder will work for your aliens too.

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