A detonator, frequently a blasting cap, is a device used to trigger an explosive device. Detonators can be chemically, mechanically, or electrically initiated, the latter two being the most common.
The commercial use of explosives uses electrical detonators or the capped fuse which is a length of safety fuse to which an ordinary detonator has been crimped. Many detonators' primary explosive is a material called ASA compound. This compound is formed from lead azide, lead styphnate and aluminium and is pressed into place above the base charge, usually TNT or tetryl in military detonators and PETN in commercial detonators.
Other materials such as DDNP (diazo dinitro phenol) are also used as the primary charge to reduce the amount of lead emitted into the atmosphere by mining and quarrying operations. Old detonators used mercury fulminate as the primary, often mixed with potassium chlorate to yield better performance.
A blasting cap is a small sensitive primary explosive device generally used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less sensitive secondary explosive such as TNT, dynamite, or plastic explosive.
Blasting caps come in a variety of types, including non-electric caps, electric caps, and fuse caps. They are used in commercial mining, excavation, and demolition. Electric types are set off by a short burst of current conducted from a blasting machine by a long wire to the cap to ensure safety. Traditional fuse caps have a fuse which is ignited by a flame source, such as a match or a lighter.