Chemistry

The Chemistry of Gunpowder



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Gunpowder was a major breakthrough in the world of chemistry. Even though alot of the use for gunpowder is for violence, or simply for entertainment, it has been on of the biggest break-throughs in chemistry. It is believed that it was founded in ancient Chinese culture by alchemists, it was originally made with sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter, or potassium nitrate. The charcoal used came from various different things, such as the willow tree, grapevine, hazel, elder, laurel, and pine cones. Over the years gunpowder, and it's chemistry have greatly changed.

Nowadays black-powderisn't used in guns anymore, it has been replaced by smokeless powder, but they both qualify as a form of gunpowder. In black powder, the most important ingredient is potassium nitrate, which burns incredibly fast, which helps ignite the other ingredients, creating the propulsion of the object. The sulfur is used in black-powder to loer the temperature of ignition and increase the speed of combustion. The charcoal produces carbon for fuel of the reaction.

One of the typical compositions of black-powder uses 75% potassium nitrate, 10% sulfur, and 15% charcoal. To help prevent the risk of ignition by static electricity, the black-powder is usually coated in graphite to help prevent electrostatic charge build-up. Black-powder is ideal for use in signal flares, burst charges, and blank rounds.

An early smokeless gunpowder was called "Guncotton" it was typically formed by using a nitrating process where cotton, or cellulose, was dipped in nitric and sulfuric acids, it evolved to become safer and better usable, smokeless gunpowder. It was a gelatin that was formed by the evaporation of ether and alcohol. It is used for a variety of specialties to date, but is most commonly found in fireworks.

Gunpowder was used for mining for a very long time. It was used even before the safety fuse was invented. It was used in cannons, and guns, but for the longest, and it's original purpose was in fireworks, made by the Chinese. As gunpowder made it to Western Europe, that is when the development of using it for weapons and other things was started.

In a confined space, gunpowder can create up to 42 tons per square inch, and guncotton was almost twice as powerful. Without chemistry, gunpowder would have never existed, a very important break-through that spurred numerous other inventions. Whether it is used to celebrate a holiday, or used protecting one's country, we have chemistry to thank for such wonderful innovations as gunpowder.

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