History Of Gunpowder Essay Research Paper GUNPOWDERGunpowder

History Of Gunpowder Essay, Research Paper


Gunpowder is the oldest of all explosives. It was used by the ancient

Chinese, Arabs, and people of India first. But exact directions on how to make

it were not known to the western World until 1242, when Roger Bacon of Oxford

University, in England published a book in which he told the ways to make

gunpowder. Today gunpowder is not used as much as more powerful explosives

After Roger Bacon published his formula for gunpowder, Berthold

Schwarz, a German monk, developed it as a practical explosive in the thirteen

hundreds. Schwarz is said to have invented a firearm which exploded shells by

the action of gunpowder. Gunpowder was being used in cannons as early as

thirteen forty-six. At that time, gunpowder was actually in powder form. It had to

be loaded carefully into the cannon, so that the charge would be packed

properly. If it were packed too tightly, the flame would not light the powder

because it couldn’t get enough oxygen. But if it were packed too loosely, it

couldn’t build up enough gas forces to push the cannonball to it’s target.

A new way to make gunpowder into grains, instead of powder, was

invented in the fourteen hundreds. In this method you would moisten it and

pound it into a cake. Then it was broken into small bits and put into a sieve to be

sifted. The pieces that came through the sieve were different shapes and would

not fit together well enough to pack tightly, so that careful packing of a cannon

was not necessary.

When a long-barreled, rifled cannon came into use, it became necessary

to slow down the burning rate of the gunpowder. Its swift explosive force would

often burst the barrel of the gun, causing the man who fired it to be in almost as

much danger as the man he was attempting to shoot. Captain Rodman of the

United States Army finally developed a gunpowder that was made into grains

shaped into hexagonal prisms. These prisms were large and had several

rounded parallel grooves in them. When the prisms were placed end to end,

these grooves fitted to make a continuous channel. The flame burned outward

from these grooves and inward from the surface of the prisms. This kept up a

continuous flow of gases for long periods, and caused a long, slow push on the

shell. As a result, this kind of explosions could hurl the shell long distance.

Smokeless powder was invented in eighteen eighty-four, and had replaced

gunpowder for use in firing shells by the early nineteen hundreds. But

gunpowder was still made in large quantities in the United States for many years

after that. During World War One, gunpowder was used as a base in many

shells, bombs, and torpedoes.

heavier armor and new types of fighting equipment used in World War

Two required more powerful explosives, but gunpowder was still used as a

primer for the artillery shells. Another guns in artillery or naval guns is as a

charge for military salutes.

An explosive is any material that, when ignited by heat or shock,

undergoes rapid decomposition or oxidation. This process releases energy that

is stored in the material in the form of heat and light, or by breaking down into

gas compounds that occupy a much larger volume that the original . Because

this expansion is very rapid, large volumes of air are pushed aside by the

expanding gasses. This expansion occurs at a speed greater

than the speed of sound, and so a sonic boom occurs. This explains the

mechanics behind an explosion. Explosives occur in several forms: high-order

explosives which detonate, low order explosives, which burn, and primers, which

may do both.

High order explosives detonate. A detonation occurs only in a high order

explosive. Detonations are usually incurred by a shock wave that passes

through a block of the high explosive material. The shock wave breaks apart the

molecular bonds between the atoms of the substance, at a rate approximately

equal to the speed of sound traveling through that material. In a high explosive,

the fuel and oxidizer are chemically bonded, and the shock wave breaks apart

these bonds, and re-combines the two materials to produce mostly gasses.

T.N.T., ammonium nitrate, and R.D.X. are examples of high order explosives.

Low order explosives do not detonate; they burn, or undergo oxidation. when

heated, the fuel(s) and oxidizer(s) combine to produce heat, light, and gaseous

products. Some low order materials burn at about the same speed under

pressure as they do in the open, such as black powder. Others, such as

gunpowder, which is correctly called nitrocellulose, burn much faster and hotter

when they are in a confined space, such as the barrel of a firearm; they usually

burn much slower than black powder when they are ignited in unpressurized

conditions. Black powder, nitrocellulose, and flash powder are good examples of

low order


Primers are kind of different to the explosive field. Some of them, such as

mercury fulminate, will function as a low or high order explosive. They are

usually more sensitive to friction, heat, or shock, than the high or low explosives.

Most primers perform like a high order explosive, except that they are much

more sensitive. Still others merely burn, but when they are confined, they burn

at a great rate and with a large expansion of gasses and a shock wave.

Primers are usually used in a small amount to initiate, or cause to decompose, a

high order explosive, as in an artillery shell. But, they are also frequently used to

ignite a low order explosive; the gunpowder in a bullet is ignited by the

detonation of its primer.

For many centuries gunpowder was mainly used to shoot the shot from

guns. But it has the disadvantage of producing clouds of smoke when it

explodes. Most gunpowder today is used in certain types of safety fuses, in

fireworks, and as an igniter for rockets. It is also sometimes used in industrial

blasting where powerful explosives are not required. When gunpowder is used

as a blasting powder, it contains less saltpeter and more sulfur and charcoal.

Modern gunpowder, usually called black powder, is a mixture of sulfur,

charcoal, and saltpeter (potassium nitrate). Saltpeter usually makes up 75

percent of the mixture, charcoal makes up 15 percent, and sulfur makes up 10

percent. After it is mixed, the moist material goes to a mill where it is run

between heavy rollers. It is the placed in another machine that makes it into a

meal. The meal is compressed in a press to form a solid cake. this cake is then

broken into grains of the desired sizes. The grains are glazed to break off sharp

points and to fill the pores in the grains so that the powder will not get wet or

dusty. After the grains have been glazed, they are dried and joined together.

Sometimes gunpowder grains are molded into prisms.

Gunpowder has been used in many major plot and schemes to over throw

the government or assassinations. Like the Gunpowder Plot. The gunpowder

plot was a plan to blow up the English Houses of Parliament on November 5,

1605, When King James the first was to be present. A group headed by Robert

Catesby and Guy Fawkes originated the plan . This group resented the hostile

attitude of the government toward the Roman Catholic church. But the plot was

discovered and most of the people in the group were killed. Public hostility

toward Catholics increased in England.

The English hold an annual festival on November 5, When they burn Guy

Fawkes in effigy. In memory of the Gunpowder Plot a formal search of the

vaults beneath the houses of Parliament is still made before each new session.

A grenade was one of the first actual explosives that the army used in

combat against other people. A grenade is a small explosive bomb that may be

thrown*, or may be fired from a rifle. Fragmentation grenades contain a notched

wire or coil that would shatter into many pieces when the grenade exploded and

would go flying every where. Chemical grenades are filled with gas, smoke, or

white phosphorous. Illuminating grenades are used at night to light up land

areas so troops could see. Grenades were originally used in the 1400’s. In the

1600’s and 1700’s specially trained men used them. Today, they are a common

weapon of all infantry soldiers. yes, that’s right they there used to a profession in

the army of certain countries specifically for throwing grenades. These men

were called Grenadiers. A grenadier was a French solider in the 1600’s trained

to throw hand grenades. Grenadiers were selected for their strength, nerve, and

initiative. They wore distinctive, colorful uniforms. Gradually, other European

countries created grenadier units. They took the best soldiers from other units to

organize these elite battalions. Improvements in small arms made grenade

bowling suicidal by 1800. But armies still maintained grenadier units as key

reserves. Some European armies still have regiments that carry grenadier titles.

For example, the British Grenadier Guards, which traces its title to Waterloo in

1815, helps guard Buckingham Palace in London.

And now to discuss the most common use of gunpowder today other than

in bullets and explosives, Fireworks. Fireworks are combinations of gunpowder

and other ingredients that explode with loud noises and colorful sparks and

flames when they burn. Fireworks are also called pyrotechnics. Fireworks that

only make a loud bang are called firecrackers. Fireworks are dangerous

because they contain gunpowder they should be handled only by adult or with

adult supervision. Fireworks handled improperly can explode and cause serious

injury to the people within the range of the explosion.

Most fireworks are made by packing gunpowder and other chemicals into

cardboard tubes. Coarse gunpowder is used shoot rockets into the air. Finer

and more loosely packed gunpowder explodes to destroy the rocket once it is in

the air. Manufactures add small amounts of special chemicals to the gunpowder

to create colors. They add sodium compounds to make yellows, strontium

compounds to make red, and copper and barium compounds for blue and green.

Charcoal is another substance that can be added. It provides the rocket with a

sparkling flaming tail.

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