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Encyclopedia > Black powder

Black powder was the original gunpowder and practically the only known propellant and explosive until the middle of the 19th century. It has largely been superseded by more efficient explosives such as smokeless powders and TNT. It is still manufactured today but primarily for use in fireworks, model rocket engines, and reproductions of muzzleloading weapons. Smokeless powder Gunpowder, whether black powder or smokeless powder, is a substance that burns very rapidly, releasing gases that act as a propellant in firearms. ... A propellant is a material that is used to move an object by applying a motive force. ... This article is concerned solely with chemical explosives. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Smokeless powder Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of gunpowder-like propellants used in firearms which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older black powder which it replaced. ... R-phrases S-phrases Related Compounds Related compounds picric acid hexanitrobenzene Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 Â°C, 100 kPa) Infobox disclaimer and references Trinitrotoluene (TNT) is a chemical compound with the formula C6H2(NO2)3CH3. ... Fourth of July fireworks in San Diego, California New Years Day fireworks at Seaport Village, California Preparing fireworks at Sayn Castle A firework is classified as a low explosive pyrotechnic device used primarily for aesthetic and entertainment purposes. ... A model rocket launching Model rocketry is a hobby similar to building model airplanes. ... A US soldier drops a shell into the muzzle of an M224 60-mm mortar. ...

Contents

Description

Black powder consists of the granular ingredients sulphur (S), charcoal (provides carbon to the reaction) and saltpetre (saltpetre, potassium nitrate, KNO3; provides oxygen to the reaction). For the chemical element see: sulfur. ... Charcoal is the blackish residue consisting of impure carbon obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. ... General Name, Symbol, Number carbon, C, 6 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 14, 2, p Appearance black (graphite) colorless (diamond) Atomic mass 12. ... Saltpeter is variously: potassium nitrate (niter); or sodium nitrate (soda niter) ... R-phrases   S-phrases   Supplementary data page Structure and properties n, εr, etc. ... General Name, Symbol, Number oxygen, O, 8 Chemical series Nonmetals, chalcogens Group, Period, Block 16, 2, p Appearance colorless (gas) very pale blue (liquid) Atomic mass 15. ...


A simple, commonly cited, chemical equation for the combustion of black powder is: The IUPAC Compendium of Chemical Terminology defines chemical reaction equation as a symbolic representation of a chemical reaction where the reactant entities are given on the left hand side and the product entities on the right hand side. ...

2 KNO3 + S + 3CK2S + N2 + 3CO2

A more accurate, but still simplified[1], equation is :10 KNO3 + 3S + 8C → 2K2CO3 + 3K2SO4 + 6 CO2 + 5N2 R-phrases   S-phrases   Supplementary data page Structure and properties n, εr, etc. ... For the chemical element see: sulfur. ... General Name, Symbol, Number carbon, C, 6 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 14, 2, p Appearance black (graphite) colorless (diamond) Atomic mass 12. ... Potassium sulfide [1312-73-8] CAS RN 1312-73-8 ACX Number X1003913-5 Molecular weight 110. ... General Name, Symbol, Number nitrogen, N, 7 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 15, 2, p Appearance colorless gas Atomic mass 14. ... Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of one carbon and two oxygen atoms. ... R-phrases   S-phrases   Supplementary data page Structure and properties n, εr, etc. ... For the chemical element see: sulfur. ... General Name, Symbol, Number carbon, C, 6 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 14, 2, p Appearance black (graphite) colorless (diamond) Atomic mass 12. ... Carbonate of potash redirects here. ... Potassium sulfate (K2SO4) (also known as potash of sulfur) is a non-flammable white crystalline salt which is soluble in water. ... Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of one carbon and two oxygen atoms. ... General Name, Symbol, Number nitrogen, N, 7 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 15, 2, p Appearance colorless gas Atomic mass 14. ...


The products of burning do not follow any simple equation. One study's results showed it produced (in order of descending quantities): 55.91% solid products: Potassium carbonate, Potassium sulfate, Potassium sulfide, Sulfur, Potassium nitrate, Potassium thiocyanate, Carbon, Ammonium carbonate. 42.98% gaseous products: Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen, Carbon monoxide, Hydrogen sulfide, Hydrogen, Methane. 1.11% water


The optimum proportions for gunpowder are: 74.64% saltpetre, 13.51% charcoal, and 11.85% sulfur (by weight). The current standard for black powder manufactured by pyrotechnicians today is 75% potassium nitrate, 15% softwood charcoal and 10% sulfur. R-phrases   S-phrases   Supplementary data page Structure and properties n, εr, etc. ... Pyrotechnics are used in the entertainment industry The band Rammsteins stage acts centers largely around pyrotechnics Pyrotechnics is a field of study often thought synonymous with the manufacture of fireworks, but more accurately it has a wider scope that includes items for military and industrial uses. ...


For the most powerful black powder "meal" a wood charcoal is used. The best wood for the purpose is pacific willow, but others such as alder or buckthorn can be used. The ingredients are mixed as thoroughly as possible. This is achieved using a ball mill with non-sparking grinding apparatus (e.g., bronze or lead), or similar device. The mix is sometimes dampened with alcohol or water during grinding to prevent accidental ignition. Meal powder is the fine dust left over when black powder is corned and screened to separate it into different grain sizes. ... Trunks A tree trunk as found at the Veluwe, The Netherlands Wood is a solid material derived from woody plants, notably trees but also shrubs. ... Species About 350, including: Salix acutifolia - Violet Willow Salix alaxensis - Alaska Willow Salix alba - White Willow Salix alpina - Alpine Willow Salix amygdaloides - Peachleaf Willow Salix arbuscula - Mountain Willow Salix arbusculoides - Littletree Willow Salix arctica - Arctic Willow Salix atrocinerea Salix aurita - Eared Willow Salix babylonica - Peking Willow Salix bakko Salix barrattiana... Species About 20-30 species, see text. ... Species See text The Buckthorns Rhamnus are a genus (or two genera, if Frangula is treated as distinct) of about 100 species of shrubs or small trees from 1-10 m tall (rarely to 15 m), in the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae. ... A ball mill, a type of crusher, is a cylindrical device used to grind (or mix) materials like ores, chemicals, ceramics and paints. ... Assorted ancient Bronze castings found as part of a cache, probably intended for recycling. ... For PB or pb as an abbreviation, see PB. General Name, Symbol, Number lead, Pb, 82 Chemical series poor metals Group, Period, Block 14, 6, p Appearance bluish gray Atomic mass 207. ... Functional group of an alcohol molecule. ...


Black powder is also corned to change its burn rate. Corning is a process which first compresses the fine black powder meal into blocks with a fixed density (1.7 g/cm3). The blocks are then broken up into granules. These granules are then sorted by size to give the various grades of black powder. Standard grades of black powder run from the coarse Fg grade used in large bore rifles and small cannon though FFg (medium and smallbore rifles), FFFg (pistols), and FFFFg (smallbore, short pistols and priming flintlocks). To reduce accidental ignition due to an electrostatic discharge, coarse black powder grains are sometimes coated with graphite dust, preventing charge build-up during handling. Very coarse black powder was used in mining before the development of nitroglycerine and dynamite. Two flintlock pistols Flintlock is the general term for any firearm based on the flintlock mechanism. ... Graphite (named by Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1789, from the Greek γραφειν: to draw/write, for its use in pencils) is one of the allotropes of carbon. ... Nitroglycerin (also nitroglycerine, trinitroglycerin, or glyceryl trinitrate) is a chemical compound, a heavy, colorless, poisonous, oily, explosive liquid obtained by nitrating glycerol. ... Dynamite is an explosive based on the explosive potential of nitroglycerin using diatomaceous earth (Kieselguhr) as an adsorbent. ...


Black powder is classified as a low explosive, that is, it deflagrates (burns) rapidly. High explosives detonate at a rate approximately 10 times faster than the burning of black powder. A low explosive is a combustible substance that decomposes rapidly (deflagration), but doesnt explode under normal conditions. ... A log in a fire place. ...


Although black powder is not a high explosive, the United States Department of Transportation classifies it as a "Class A High Explosive" for shipment because it is so easily ignited. Highly destructive explosions at fireworks manufacturing plants are rather common events, especially in Asia. Complete manufactured devices containing black powder are usually classified as "Class C Firework", "Class C Model Rocket Engine", etc. for shipment because they are harder to ignite than the loose powder. This article is concerned solely with chemical explosives. ... Established October 15, 1966 Activated April 1, 1967 Secretary Mary Peters Deputy Secretary Maria Cino Budget $58 billion (2004 estimate) Employees 58,622 (2004 estimate) The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is a Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with transport. ...


History

A description of saltpetre-aided combustion was written down in the 9th century,[1]. The explosion recorded was an accidental by-product of Taoist alchemical efforts to develop an elixir of immortality.[2] A book dating from c. 850 CE called "Classified Essentials of the Mysterious Tao of the True Origin of Things" warns of one elixir, "Some have heated together sulfur, realgar and saltpeter with honey; smoke and flames result, so that their hands and faces have been burnt, and even the whole house where they were working burned down."[3] For other uses of the words tao and dao, see Dao (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Alchemy (disambiguation). ... The elixir of life, also known as the elixir of immortality or Dancing Water and sometimes equated with the Philosophers stone, is a legendary potion, or drink, that grants the drinker eternal life or eternal youth. ... General Name, Symbol, Number sulfur, S, 16 Chemical series nonmetals Group, Period, Block 16, 3, p Appearance lemon yellow Atomic mass 32. ... Orpiment and Realgar Realgar is an arsenic sulfide mineral with formula: As4S4. ... Saltpeter or Saltpetre is comprised of: potassium nitrate (niter/nitre); and/or sodium nitrate (nitratine/soda niter) // Preparation The above chemicals can be prepared various ways. ...


The impetus for the development of explosive weapons in China was increasing encroachment by tribes on its borders.[4] The Wu jing zong yao (武经总要, "Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques") of 1044 CE contains three recipes for saltpetre explosives: two for use in incendiary bombs to be thrown by siege engines and one intended as fuel for poison smoke bombs.[5] Printed editions of this book were made from about 1488, and in 1608 a hand-copied edition was made.[6] Kelly suggests that the Chinese began to use rockets or fire arrows in war in the middle of the 13th century.[7] One early use of saltpetre explosives as a weapon was the fire lance, a handheld flamethrower which could also be loaded with shrapnel; by the late 1200s the Chinese had developed these into the earliest guns.[8] It should be noted that after a major battle in 1268, accounts which based on Yuanshi, listed the events with the use of firearms to the end of Mongol's conquest, when it was last mentioned on a battle at Wuzhou in 1277.[9] An explosion was mentioned on 1280 at Yangzhou caused by the black powder.[10] After 1279, most guns taken from the major cities were kept by the Mongols. In 1330s, a Mongol law prohibited guns in the hands of Chinese. However it was restricted to civilians, who didn't usually carry firearms.[11] An account of a 1359 battle near Hangzhou records that both the Ming Chinese and Mongol sides were equipped with cannon.[12] From archeology, the oldest cannon in China dates from 1298, as discovered recently with Chinese date inscribed 元大德二年 (1298) on the cannon. This is, however, similar to the bronze cannon of 1332, which also had its date inscription. Many early mixtures of Chinese gunpowder contained toxic substances such as mercury and arsenic compounds. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Wuzhou is a prefecture-level city on the Eastern fringe of Guangxi Region of the Peoples Republic of China. ... Yangzhou (Simplified Chinese: ; Traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: ; former spellings: Yang-chou, Yangchow; literally Rising Prefecture) is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu province, Peoples Republic of China. ... Centuries: 13th century - 14th century - 15th century Decades: 1280s 1290s 1300s 1310s 1320s - 1330s - 1340s 1350s 1360s 1370s 1380s Years: 1330 1331 1332 1333 1334 1335 1336 1337 1338 1339 Events and Trends The poet Petrarch coins the pejorative term Dark Ages to describe the preceding 900 years in Europe... A small cannon on a carriage, Bucharest. ... General Name, Symbol, Number mercury, Hg, 80 Chemical series transition metals Group, Period, Block 12, 6, d Appearance silvery Atomic mass 200. ... General Name, Symbol, Number arsenic, As, 33 Chemical series metalloids Group, Period, Block 15, 4, p Appearance metallic gray Atomic mass 74. ...


In the 1270s, the Mongols conquered China and, with it, the technology of gunpowder. [citation needed] The use of cannon and rockets became a feature of East Asian warfare thereafter. The low, thick city walls of Beijing (started in 1406), for example, were specifically designed to withstand a gunpowder artillery attack [citation needed], and the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing in 1421, because the hills around Nanjing were good locations for invaders to place artillery. Beijing [English Pronunciation] (Chinese: 北京 [Chinese Pronunciation]; Pinyin: Běijīng; IPA: ), a metropolis in northern China, is the capital of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). ... For other uses, see Ming. ... For other uses, see Nanjing (disambiguation). ... Beijing [English Pronunciation] (Chinese: 北京 [Chinese Pronunciation]; Pinyin: Běijīng; IPA: ), a metropolis in northern China, is the capital of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). ...


Saltpetre combustion spread to the Arabs in the 13th century.[13] The Turks destroyed the walls of Constantinople in 1453 with 13 enormous cannon up to a bore of 90 cm firing a 320 kg projectile a distance of over 1.6 km.[citations needed] Map of Constantinople. ... km redirects here. ...


The first written recipe for gunpowder, from anywhere in the world, was set down by Roger Bacon in 1242 and was later mentioned by him in 1252,1257 an 1267 (Gartz2007). The 15th through 17th century saw widespread development in gunpowder technology mainly in Europe. Advances in metallurgy led to portable weapons and the development of hand-held firearms such as muskets. Cannon technology in Europe gradually outpaced that of China and these technological improvements transferred back to China through Jesuit missionaries who were put in charge of cannon manufacture by the late Ming and early Qing emperors. The latter half of the 19th Century saw the invention of nitroglycerin, nitrocellulose and smokeless powders, which soon replaced black powder in many applications. Statue of Roger Bacon in the Oxford University Museum Roger Bacon (c. ... World map showing the location of Europe. ... Metallurgy is a domain of materials science and of materials engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. ... A firearm is a kinetic energy weapon that fires either a single or multiple projectiles propelled at high velocity by the gases produced by action of the rapid confined burning of a propellant. ... Muskets and bayonets aboard the frigate Grand Turk. ... Seal of the Society of Jesus. ... A missionary is a propagator of religion, often an evangelist or other representative of a religious community who works among those outside of that community. ... The Qing Dynasty (Chinese: ; pinyin: QÄ«ng cháo; Wade-Giles: Ching chao; Manchu: daicing gurun), occasionally known as the Manchu Dynasty, was a dynasty founded by the Manchu clan Aisin Gioro, in what is today northeast China, expanded into China and the surrounding territories, establishing the Empire... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Nitroglycerin (NG), also known as nitroglycerine, trinitroglycerin, and glyceryl trinitrate, is a chemical compound. ... Nitrocellulose Nitrocellulose Nitrocellulose (also: cellulose nitrate, flash paper) is a highly flammable compound formed by nitrating cellulose through, for example, exposure to nitric acid or another powerful nitrating agent. ... Smokeless powder Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of gunpowder-like propellants used in firearms which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older black powder which it replaced. ...


Civil use

One of the overlooked areas in the history of black powder is its use in civil engineering and mining. Until the invention of explosives, large rocks could only be broken up by hard labour, or heating with large fires followed by rapid quenching. The earliest surviving record for the use of gunpowder in mines comes from Hungary in 1627. It was introduced to Britain in 1638 by German miners, after which records are numerous. Until the invention of the safety fuse by William Bickford in 1831, the practice was extremely dangerous. Another reason for danger was the dense fumes given off and the risk of igniting flammable gas when used in coal mines.


The first time gunpowder was used on a large scale in civil engineering was in the construction of the Canal du Midi in Southern France. It was completed in 1681 and linked the Mediterranean sea with the Bay of Biscay with 240 km of canal and 100 locks. Another noteworthy consumer of blackpowder was the Erie canal in New York, which was 585 km long and took eight years to complete, starting in 1817. Canal construction led to a frenzy of activity among American gunpowder manufacturers. The Canal du Midi, near Toulouse The Canal du Midi is a canal of great historic importance and remarkable beauty in the south (le midi) of France. ... The Mediterranean Sea is an intercontinental sea positioned between Europe to the north, Africa to the south and Asia to the east, covering an approximate area of 2. ... Map of the Bay of Biscay. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Channel (geography). ... The Erie Canal (currently part of the New York State Canal System) is a canal in New York State, United States, that runs from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. ... NY redirects here. ...


Black powder was also extensively used in railway construction. At first tracks were limited to level ground, but later railways made extensive use of cuttings and tunnels. One 800-metre stretch of the notorious Box Tunnel on the Great Western Railway line between London and Bristol consumed a tonne of gunpowder per week for over two years. Over 100 lives were lost during construction of the 3.3 km tunnel. The 12.9 km long Mont Cenis Tunnel was completed in 13 years starting in 1857, but even with black powder progress was only 25 cm a day until the invention of pneumatic drills sped up the work. Box Tunnel is a railway tunnel in western England, between Bath and Chippenham, dug through the Box Hill. ... The original Bristol Temple Meads station, first terminus of the GWR, is the building to the left of this picture The Great Western Railway (GWR) was a British railway company, linking South West England, the West Country and South Wales with London. ... This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ... Bristol (IPA: ) is a city, unitary authority and ceremonial county in South West England, 115 miles (185 km) west of London and between the cities of Bath, Gloucester and the borough of Swindon. ... The Fréjus Rail Tunnel (also called Mont Cenis Tunnel) is a railroad tunnel of 13. ... The word jackhammer is also used in the name of the type of combat shotgun called the Pancor Jackhammer. ...


Notes

  1. ^ Needham, Joseph (2004). Science and Civilisation in China. Cambridge University Press, 74. ISBN 0-521-08732-5. 
  2. ^ Kelly, Jack (2004). Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, & Pyrotechnics: The History of the Explosive that Changed the World. Basic Books, 3. ISBN 0-465-03718-6. 
  3. ^ Kelly 2004:4
  4. ^ Kelly 2004:8-10
  5. ^ Kelly 2004:10
  6. ^ Feng 1991:461
  7. ^ Kelly 2004:15
  8. ^ Kelly 2004:15-17
  9. ^ Liu 2004:57-58
  10. ^ Liu 2004:48
  11. ^ Wang 1991:48
  12. ^ Kelly 2004:17
  13. ^ Kelly 2004:22 'Around 1240 the Arabs acquired knowledge of saltpeter ("Chinese snow") from the East, perhaps through India. They knew of gunpowder soon afterward. They also learned about fireworks ("Chinese flowers") and rockets ("Chinese arrows").'

References

  • Guns and Rifles of the World by Howard Blackmore ISBN 0-670-35780-4
  • The Big Bang: A history of Explosives by G I Brown ISBN 0-7509-1878-0
  • Firearms : a global history to 1700 / by Chase, Kenneth Warren. ISBN 0-521-82274-2
  • The Chemistry of Powder & Explosives by Tenney L. Davis, ISBN 0-913022-00-4
  • History of Ancient Chinese Firearms and Blackpowder by Liu Xu. ISBN 7-5347-3028-7
  • A History of Chinese Firearms by Wang Zhaocun. ISBN 7-80021-304-8
  • Selection of Ancient Chinese Military Masterpieces by Feng Wu, et al. ISBN 7-81027-097-4
  • Partington, James Riddick (1998). A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5954-9. 
  • From Greek fire to dynamite.A cultural history of the explosives by Jochen Gartz.E.S.Mittler &Sohn.Hamburg year 2007,ISBN 978-3-8132-0867-2

See also


  Results from FactBites:
 
BLACK POWDER (0 words)
Black Powder is a finely ground mix of charcoal, potassium nitrate, (anciently called saltpeter), and sulfur.
This powder looks a lot like Black Powder, although the grains are somewhat brownish in color, apparently ignites at temperatures somewhat higher than Black although not as high as Pyrodex, smokes a whole lot less than Black and leaves very little residue in the barrel.
The granules are fl, round, appear to be molded, ignites easier than Pyrodex, shoots at near Black Powder velocities but at lower pressures with a broader pressure curve, produces just a little white smoke and leaves the barrel much cooler to the touch after a series of shots than does Black Powder.
Maine Powder House - "Your Black Powder Source" (141 words)
Swiss Black Powder guarantees the world's highest quality fl powder, as shown by several world records.
The quality of Swiss Black Powder is critically dependent upon a careful mix of sulfur and potassium nitrate with the finest quality charcoal.
Those who love history and fl powder shooting rely on the quality and tradition of Goex shooting powders.
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