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Science  04 Oct 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5284, pp. 65
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5284.65


Some chemical reactions, such as the detonation of explosives, can be initiated by mechanical forces. In his Perspective, Gilman discusses the microscopic story behind such reactions. Unlike liquids or gases, solids can experience shear forces, and these in turn can cause bending of atomic bonds in molecules. The energy levels of these bent molecules can change in such a way as to lead to bond breaking and rearrangement.