A brief tour through the gunpowder innovation

A brief tour through the gunpowder innovation

Sulphur, potassium nitrate and charcoal are the main ingredients in gunpowder which serves as an explosive substance. Traditionally, it was used in fireworks and applied as a projector in firearms. However, through gunpowder innovation, it has become another form of weapon that is better known and more widely used. Since the original method of production emits a large amount of soot when it explodes, a powder containing nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin which is smokeless has taken the place of the former.

This innovation had its starting point at China in the ninth century. It was adapted by Chinese as firearms as it was considered to be an ideal explosive for weapons since it produce a low explosive, yet strong enough to propel bullets while not damaging the gun or rifle. By the 13th century, cannons were manufactured by Europe and the Middle East after both got hold of gunpowder.

An important stage in the gunpowder innovation would be the “corning” of gunpowder by Europeans. When it mixed with liquid and shaped into granules proved to have better consistency. They no longer separate into unusable parts or reduce to dust upon discharge.

Furthermore, though the corning technique was an essential step in improving its functionality, it still pose a problem, which is, it emits thick clouds of smoke when ignited, resulting in visibility issues in the battlefield. In 1846, a Swiss chemist invented the first ever smokeless gunpowder, called the guncotton. The down side of this powder was that it was dangerous due to its unstable state.

The truly successful of this innovation, namely the Poudre B, was introduced by Pal Vieille. It was closely followed by Alfred Nobel’s Ballistite. This creation is more than often applied specially for firearms, to the extent that any references to gunpowder would be associated to its smokeless variety.

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