Fulminating Gold The First High Explosive

Fulminating Gold The First High Explosive Cover Since gold is so difficult to combine with other elements, all gold compounds are fairly unstable. Some much more so than others, though: In 1659, Thomas Willis and Robert Hooke demonstrated that a powder of gold hydrazide explodes on a mere concussion, without the need for air or sparks (which were once thought to be required for any kind of ignition). Gold hydrazide (also known as aurodiamine) is a water-soluble substance obtained by letting an ammoniacal solution react with an auric hydroxide precipitate (itself obtained from a gold solution prepared with aqua regia). Gold hydrazide has a dirty olive-green color (AuHNNH2 ). Gold hydrazide is apparently only one of several explosive compounds which have been called fulminating gold (aurum fulminans). Around 1603, another kind of fulminating gold ("Goldkalck" or "Gold Calx") was described as the precipitate of gold by potassium carbonate. These kinds of "fulminating gold" are distinct from "gold fulminate", the gold salt of fulminic acid (CNOH), another expensive explosive... In spite of its price, fulminating gold is said to have been used militarily in 1628. The discovery of fulminating gold has been attributed to the alchemist Basil Valentine (Basilius Valentinus) a legendary benedictine monk who is regarded by some as the "father of modern chemistry" [see next article]. We're told Basil Valentine was born in 1394, although his main work (The Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine) was first published only in 1599.

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