Black Powder Or Blackpowder Or Gunpowder

Black Powder Or Blackpowder Or Gunpowder Cover What is the composition of black powder ? The French call it either poudre a canon (gunpowder) or poudre noire (blackpowder). The loose powder was called serpentine. The name black powder is of relatively recent origin, as it appeared only after other explosives were devised which lacked the black luster of free carbon. Obviously, the stuff wasn't called gunpowder before the gun was invented, around 1313. The invention of the gun is often credited to brother Berthold Schwarz (Schwartz), a Franciscan friar from Freiburg with a bogus last name ("Black" in German) indicating his interest in alchemy, the black art; the real name of "Black Bert" was most probably Constantine Anelzin. He "invented" gunpowder only in the sense that he found a new use for old serpentine and thus made the new name meaningful. Black powder was the first explosive ever devised, and it remained the only one for centuries. It is composed of the following three solid ingredients: * Saltpeter: KNO3 niter (or, more rarely, NaNO3 Chilean nitrate). * Sulphur: S. ["sulfur" and "sulphur" are equally acceptable spellings] * Carbon: C. Often in the impure form of charcoal from wood (willow). However, simply mixing the ingredients produces only inferior meal powder... To obtain what's now considered proper black powder, the ingedients must be "incorporated" in a damp state. This allows the application of great pressure to form a dense cake, ultimately broken down into dry grains. This process is called corning, and it was first introduced in France in 1429. Early forms of blackpowder may have existed in China around AD 700, using crude recipes calling for equal weights of the three components... Such mixtures would only burn violently without exploding... Also, explosion cannot occur if raw saltpeter is used, and the refining of saltpeter is not mentioned before 1240 in a book on military technology by the Syrian scholar Hassan Al-Rammah, entitled al-furusiyya wa al-manasib al-harbiyya. The first Chinese author to describe an explosive formula was apparently Huo Lung Ching, in 1412. In a six-page tract entitled Liber Ignium ("Book of Fires"), Marcus Graecus [an otherwise unknown author, possibly a fictitious one] describes 35 incendiary recipes, including a formula which was once standard for English blackpowder: [...] 1 lb of native sulfur, 2 lb of linden or willow charcoal, 6 lb of saltpeter, which three things are very finely powdered on a marble slab. The latin version of this pamphlet did not appear before 1280 or 1300 and may have originated around that time, although the claim has been made that it was an expanded translation by Spaniards of a more ancient Arabic text (dated AD 848) and/or a Greek version that did not include the last four formulas... Roger Bacon (c.1214-1292) investigated black powder before 1249, when he devised the recipe he communicated in 1268: 40% more saltpeter than either sulphur or carbon (7:5:5 formula by weight). However, the first unmistakable blackpowder explosive composition is the "German formula" (4:1:1) proposed by Albertus Magnus (c.1200-1280). The English standard formula around 1350 called for less sulphur and more charcoal (6:1:2). The most commonly quoted modern gunpowder composition seems to date from around 1800 and calls for 75% saltpeter (niter) oxidizer, with 10% sulfur (S) and 15% charcoal (C). The potassium sulphide solid residue forms a thick white smoke, capable of obscuring entire battlefields. Newer propellants leave little or no such residue when properly exploded. They are thus collectively known as smokeless powders. The simplest idea for a smokeless dark powder is called ammonpulver (AP) and involves ammonium nitrate (AN) with 10% to 20% charcoal, although the stoichiometry of the following reactions translates into only 7% to 13% carbon, by weight: 2 NH4NO3 + C-CO2 + 4 H2O + 2 N2 + 629.6 kJ (874.4 cal/g) NH4NO3 + C-CO + 2 H2O + N2 + 228.6 kJ (593.5 cal/g) Other smokeless powders of historical interest include the following propellants: * Guncotton, or nitrocellulose (also known as pyropowder, pyrocellulose, trinitrocellulose and cellulose nitrate) invented in 1845 by the Swiss chemist Christian Schonbein (1799-1869). * Poudre B (flakes of nitrocellulose gelatinized with ether and alcohol) invented in 1884 by Paul Vieille (1854-1934) for the 1886 Lebel rifle. * Ballistite (nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin, with diphenylamine stabilizer) invented by the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) in 1887. Sir James Dewar (1842-1923) * Cordite N (nitroguanidine, nitrocellulose, and nitroglycerin) invented by Frederick Augustus Abel and James Dewar in 1889. Sulfurless powder (12.93% carbon) would yield 772.6 cal/g, with 60% smoke: 4 KNO3 + 5 C-2 K2CO3 + 3 CO2 + 2 N2 + 1501.4 kJ It takes 92.9 g of this mix to release a mole of gas, whereas only 67.6 g of black powder would suffice (as sulfur prevents the wasteful production of carbonate).

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