Gunpowder, any of several low-explosive mixtures used as propelling charges in guns and as blasting agents. The first such explosive was black powder—a mixture of saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal—which is thought to have originated in China, where it . Feb 03, · There's nothing complicated about the formulation of black powder. It consists of charcoal (carbon), saltpeter (potassium nitrate or sometimes sodium nitrate), and sulfur. Charcoal and sulfur act as the fuel for the explosion, while saltpeter acts as an oxidizer. Sulfur also lowers the ignition temperature, which increases the combustion rate.
Gunpowderalso known as the retronym black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powderis the earliest known chemical explosive. The sulfur and charcoal act as fuels while the saltpeter is an oxidizer. Gunpowder was invented in 9th-century China as one of the Four Great Inventionsand spread throughout most parts of Eurasia by the end of the 13th century. Gunpowder is classified as a low explosive because of its relatively slow decomposition rate and consequently what is gunpowder made of brisance.
Low explosives deflagrate i. Ignition of gunpowder packed behind a projectile generates enough pressure to force the shot from the muzzle at high speed, but usually not enough force to rupture the gun barrel.
Gunpowder thus makes a good propellant, but is less suitable for shattering rock or fortifications with its low-yield explosive power. Nonetheless it was widely used to fill fused artillery shells and used in mining and civil engineering projects until the second half of the 19th century, when the first high explosives were put into use.
A simple, commonly cited, chemical equation for the combustion of black powder is:. A balanced, but still simplified, equation is: . Gunpowder does not burn as a single reaction, so the byproducts are not easily predicted. One study  showed that it produced in order of descending quantities Black powder made with less-expensive and more plentiful sodium nitrate instead of potassium nitrate in appropriate proportions works just as well.
However, it is more hygroscopic than powders made from potassium nitrate. Muzzleloaders have been known to fire after hanging on a wall for decades in a loaded state, provided they remained dry. By contrast, black powder made with sodium nitrate must be kept sealed to remain stable. Gunpowder releases 3 megajoules per kilogram and contains its own oxidant.
This is lower than TNT 4. Black powder also has a low energy density compared to modern what does crude protein mean in dog food powders, and thus to achieve high energy loadings, large amounts of black powder are needed with heavy projectiles.
Gunpowder is a low explosive : it does not detonatewhat is gunpowder made of rather deflagrates burns quickly. This is an advantage in a propellant device, where one does not desire a shock that would shatter the gun and potentially harm the operator; however, it is a drawback when an explosion is desired.
In that case, gunpowder and most importantly, gases produced by its burning must be confined. Since it contains its own oxidizer and additionally burns faster under pressure, its combustion is capable of bursting containers such as a shell, grenade, or improvised "pipe bomb" or "pressure cooker" casings to form shrapnel.
In quarrying, high explosives are generally preferred for shattering rock. However, because of its low brisanceblack powder causes fewer fractures and results in more usable stone compared to other explosives, making black powder useful for blasting slatewhich is fragile,  or monumental stone such as granite and marble.
Black powder is well suited for blank roundssignal flaresburst chargesand rescue-line launches. Black powder is also used in fireworks for lifting shells, in rockets as fuel, and in certain special effects. Combustion converts less than half the mass of black powder to gas, most of it turns into particulate matter. Some of it is ejected, wasting propelling power, fouling the air, and generally being a nuisance giving away a soldier's position, generating fog that hinders vision, etc.
Some of it ends up as a thick layer of soot inside the barrel, where it also is a nuisance for subsequent shots, and a cause of jamming an automatic weapon. Moreover, this residue is hygroscopicand with the addition of moisture absorbed from the air forms a corrosive substance.
The soot contains potassium oxide or sodium oxide that turns into potassium hydroxideor sodium hydroxidewhich corrodes wrought iron or steel gun barrels.
Black powder arms therefore require thorough and regular cleaning to remove the residue. The earliest chemical formula for gunpowder appeared in the 11th century Song dynasty text, Wujing Zongyao Complete Essentials from the Military Classicswritten by Zeng Gongliang between and A slow match for flame throwing mechanisms using the siphon principle and for fireworks and rockets is mentioned.
However gunpowder had already been used for fire arrows since at least the 10th century. The first recorded military application of gunpowder dates what mountain range is mt rushmore in use to the year in the form of incendiary projectiles.
By the Song court was producing hundreds of thousands of fire arrows for their garrisons. Fire lances were first what is gunpowder made of to have been used at the Siege of De'an in by Song forces against the Jin. By some fire lances were firing wads of bullets. The Muslims acquired knowledge of gunpowder some time between andby which point the Syrian Hasan al-Rammah had written, in Arabic, recipes for gunpowder, instructions for the purification of saltpeter, and descriptions of gunpowder incendiaries.
Al-Hassan claims that in the Battle of Ain Jalut ofthe Mamluks used against the Mongols in "the first cannon in history" gunpowder formula with near-identical ideal composition ratios for explosive gunpowder. Khan claims that it was invading Mongols who introduced gunpowder to the Islamic world  and cites Mamluk antagonism towards early musketeers in their infantry as an example of how gunpowder weapons were not always met with open acceptance in the Middle East. The musket appeared in the Ottoman Empire by The state-controlled manufacture of gunpowder by the Ottoman Empire through early supply chains to obtain nitre, sulfur and high-quality charcoal from oaks in Anatolia contributed significantly to its expansion between the 15th and 18th century.
It was not until later in the 19th century when the syndicalist production of Turkish gunpowder was greatly reduced, which coincided with the decline of its military might. Some sources mention possible gunpowder weapons being deployed by the Mongols against European forces at the Battle of Mohi in Records show that, in England, gunpowder was being made in at the Tower of London ; a powder house existed at the Tower in ; and in three King's gunpowder makers worked there.
In late 14th century Europe, gunpowder was improved by corningthe practice of drying gunpowder into small clumps to improve combustion and consistency. During the Renaissance, two European schools of pyrotechnic thought emerged, one in Italy and the other at Nuremberg, Germany. It was published posthumously inwith 9 editions over years, and also reprinted by MIT Press in By the midth century fireworks were used for entertainment on an unprecedented scale in Europe, being popular even at resorts and public gardens.
After he discovered that France was not self-sufficient in gunpowder, a Gunpowder Administration was established; to head it, the lawyer Antoine Lavoisier was appointed. Although from a bourgeois family, after his degree in law Lavoisier became wealthy from a company set up to collect taxes for the Crown; this allowed him to pursue experimental natural science as a hobby.
Without access to cheap saltpeter controlled by the Britishfor hundreds of years France had relied on saltpetremen with royal warrants, the droit de fouille or "right what is gunpowder made of dig", to seize nitrous-containing soil and demolish walls of barnyards, without compensation to the owners.
Lavoisier instituted a crash program to increase saltpeter production, revised and later eliminated the droit de fouilleresearched best refining and powder manufacturing methods, instituted management and record-keeping, and established pricing that encouraged private investment in works.
Although saltpeter from new Prussian-style putrefaction works had not been produced yet the process taking about 18 monthsin only a year France had gunpowder to export. What is gunpowder made of chief beneficiary of this surplus was the American Revolution.
By careful testing and adjusting the proportions and grinding time, powder from mills such as at Essonne outside Paris became the best in the world byand inexpensive. Two British physicists, Andrew Noble and Frederick Abelworked to improve the properties of black powder during the late 19th century.
This formed the basis for the Noble-Abel gas equation for internal ballistics. The introduction of smokeless powder in the late 19th century led to a contraction of the gunpowder industry. After the end of World War Ithe majority of the British gunpowder manufacturers merged into a single how to milk cows in minecraft, "Explosives Trades limited"; and a number what to eat when recovering from the flu sites were closed down, including those in Ireland.
Gunpowder and gunpowder weapons were transmitted to India through the Mongol invasions of India. Nasiruddin Mahmud tried to express his strength as a ruler and tried to ward off any Mongol attempt similar to the Siege of Baghdad The shipwrecked Ottoman Admiral Seydi Ali Reis is known to have introduced the earliest type of matchlock weapons, which the Ottomans used against the Portuguese during the Siege of Diu After that, a diverse variety of firearms, large guns in particular, became visible in TanjoreDaccaBijapurand Murshidabad.
The Mughal emperor Akbar mass-produced matchlocks for the Mughal Army. Akbar is personally known to have shot a leading How to get onion smell out of house commander during the Siege of Chittorgarh.
The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan is known to have introduced much more advanced matchlocks, their designs were a combination of Ottoman and Mughal designs. Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan were the first to introduce modern cannons and musketstheir army was also the first in India to have official uniforms.
The Mysorean rockets inspired the development of the Congreve rocketwhich the British widely utilized during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of Even though the knowledge of making gunpowder-based weapon has been known after the failed Mongol invasion of Java, and the predecessor of firearms, the pole gun bedil tombakwas recorded as being used by Java in  : the knowledge of making "true" firearms came much later, after the middle of the 15th century.
It was brought by the Islamic nations of West Asia, most probably the Arabs. The precise year of introduction is unknown, but it may be safely concluded to be no earlier than Portuguese and What did gregor mendel experiment with invaders were unpleasantly surprised and even outgunned on occasion. Majapahit-era cetbang cannons were further improved and used in the Demak Sultanate period during the Demak invasion of Portuguese Malacca.
During this period, the iron for manufacturing Javanese cannons was imported from Khorasan in northern Persia. The material was known by Javanese as wesi kurasani Khorasan iron. These cannons varied between pounders, weighing anywhere between 3—8 tons, length of them between 3—6 m.
It led to near universal use of the swivel-gun and cannons in the Nusantara archipelago. Saltpeter harvesting was recorded by Dutch and German travelers as being common in even the smallest villages and was collected from the decomposition process of large dung hills specifically piled what is gunpowder made of the purpose.
The Dutch punishment for possession of non-permitted gunpowder appears to have been amputation. On the origins of gunpowder technology, historian Tonio Andrade remarked, "Scholars today overwhelmingly concur that the gun was invented in China.
However, the history of gunpowder is not without controversy. A major problem confronting the study of early gunpowder history is ready access to sources close to the events described. Often the first records potentially describing use of gunpowder in warfare were what is gunpowder made of several centuries after the fact, and may well have been colored by the what is gunpowder made of experiences of the chronicler.
Ambiguous language can make it difficult to distinguish gunpowder weapons from similar technologies that do not rely on gunpowder. A commonly cited example is a report of the Battle of Mohi in Eastern Europe that mentions a "long lance" sending forth "evil-smelling vapors and smoke", which has been variously interpreted by different historians as the "first-gas attack upon European soil" using gunpowder, "the first use of cannon in Europe", or merely a "toxic gas" with no evidence of gunpowder.
Science and technology historian Bert S. Hall makes the observation that, "It goes without saying, however, that historians bent on special pleading, or simply with axes of their own to grind, how to make a beautiful fruit tray find rich material in these terminological thickets.
Another major area of contention in modern studies of the history of gunpowder is regarding the transmission of gunpowder. While the literary and archaeological evidence supports a Chinese origin for gunpowder and guns, the manner in which gunpowder what is gunpowder made of was transferred from China to the West is still under debate.
Potassium nitrate is the most important ingredient in terms of both what is gunpowder made of and function because the combustion process releases oxygen from the potassium nitrate, promoting the rapid burning of the other ingredients.
Charcoal does what is gunpowder made of consist of pure carbon; rather, it consists of partially pyrolyzed cellulosein which the wood is not completely decomposed. Carbon differs from ordinary charcoal. Whereas charcoal's autoignition temperature is relatively low, carbon's is much greater.
Thus, a black powder composition containing pure carbon would burn similarly to a match head, at best. The current standard composition for the black powders that are manufactured by pyrotechnicians was adopted as long ago as
Jan 26, · Gunpowder is an explosive material traditionally made of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate or saltpeter. It is used in fireworks and was once used as a propellant in firearms, though nowadays, a different kind of gunpowder is more common. Jun 06, · Gunpowder was invented by Chinese alchemists in the 9th century. Originally, it was made by mixing elemental sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter (potassium nitrate). The charcoal traditionally came from the willow tree, but grapevine, hazel, elder, laurel, and pine cones have all been used. Charcoal is not the only fuel that can be used. Aug 03, · The basic mix of gunpowder is universal and made of three main ingredients. There are no modifications that need to be made to these base ingredients–it’s merely a matter of finding them and mixing them. Salt Peter – The best source for this is stump remover and ice packs. I am partial to the stump remover because of its consistency.
Gunpowder or black powder is of great historical importance in chemistry. Although it can explode, its principal use is as a propellant. Gunpowder was invented by Chinese alchemists in the 9th century. Originally, it was made by mixing elemental sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter potassium nitrate. The charcoal traditionally came from the willow tree, but grapevine, hazel, elder, laurel, and pine cones have all been used.
Charcoal is not the only fuel that can be used. Sugar is used instead in many pyrotechnic applications. When the ingredients were carefully ground together , the end result was a powder that was called "serpentine. People who made gunpowder would sometimes add water, wine, or another liquid to reduce this hazard since a single spark could result in a smoky fire. Once the serpentine was mixed with a liquid, it could be pushed through a screen to make small pellets, which were then allowed to dry.
To summarize, black powder consists of a fuel charcoal or sugar and an oxidizer saltpeter or niter , and sulfur , to allow for a stable reaction. The carbon from the charcoal plus oxygen forms carbon dioxide and energy. The reaction would be slow, like a wood fire, except for the oxidizing agent. Carbon in a fire must draw oxygen from the air. Saltpeter provides extra oxygen. Potassium nitrate, sulfur, and carbon react together to form nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases and potassium sulfide.
The expanding gases, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, provide the propelling action. Gunpowder tends to produce a lot of smoke , which can impair vision on a battlefield or reduce the visibility of fireworks. Changing the ratio of the ingredients affects the rate at which the gunpowder burns and the amount of smoke that is produced.
While black powder and traditional gunpowder may both be used in firearms, the term "black powder" was introduced in the late 19th century in the United States to distinguish newer formulations from traditional gunpowder.
Black powder produces less smoke than the original gunpowder formula. It's worth noting early black powder was actually off-white or tan in color, not black! Pure amorphous carbon is not used in black powder.
Charcoal, while it contains carbon, also contains cellulose from incomplete combustion of wood. This gives charcoal a relatively low ignition temperature. Black powder made from pure carbon would barely burn. There is no single "recipe" for gunpowder. This is because varying the ratio of the ingredients produces different effects. Powder used in firearms needs to burn at a fast rate to quickly accelerate a projectile. A formulation used as a rocket propellant, on the other hand, needs to burn more slowly because it accelerates a body over a long period of time.
Cannon, like rockets, use a powder with a slower burn rate. One rocket formula consisted of Historians believe gunpowder originated in China. Originally, it was used as an incendiary. Later, it found use as a propellant and explosive.
It remains unclear when, exactly, gunpowder made its way to Europe. Basically, this is because records describing the use of gunpowder are difficult to interpret. A weapon that produced smoke might have used gunpowder or could have used some other formulation. The formulas that came into use in Europe closely matched those used in China, suggesting the technology was introduced after it had already been developed.
Share Flipboard Email. Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph. Chemistry Expert. Helmenstine holds a Ph. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter. Cite this Article Format. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph. Gunpowder Facts and History. The Science Behind Firecrackers and Sparklers. A Brief History of Chemical Explosives. Examples of Physical Changes and Chemical Changes.