Black powder (gunpowder) was invented by the chinese in the ninth century. It was made by mixing sulfur
, potassium nitrate
(saltpeter) and charcoal
. (though sugar is often substituted for the charcoal
in some pyrotechnic applications).
Initially the ingredients were ground together but they would have to be remixed before they could be used. Often a liquid such as water was used during the re-mixing because of the high risk of accidental ignition. The wet mixture was usually pushed through a screen to make small pellets. Once dry it was ready to use!
Black powder has a fuel, an oxidizer
and a stabilizer. The fuel is normally charcoal
(or sugar), the oxidizer
is potassium nitrate
and the stabilizer is sulfur
. When the charcoal
and its surrounding oxygen burns it releases energy and carbon dioxide. By itself it would simply burn, much like wood. But, by adding the potassium nitrate
as an oxidizer
(to provide a lot of extra oxygen to the process) it now burns much bigger, brighter and faster. When mixed with the sulfur
and ignited, they react forming carbon dioxide and nitrogen gasses which rapidly expand to form the explosion or to act as the propellant.
Notice! Warning! Disclaimer!
This information is provided for reading entertainment purposes only.
The hobby of making your own pyrotechnics is potentially VERY dangerous and should not be attempted by anyone who is not properly trained and or supervised.
This information is not intended to be considered complete - it is only supplied as interesting reading on the subject of pyrotechnics.
Use this information at your own risk.
You accept complete responsibility for any and all legal consequences, injuries or damages that may occur by utilizing this information.
Some things mentioned here may be illegal to make in your area or may require proper licensing.
You are responsible to know the legal requirements and consequences (if any) for making or utilizing any information provided on this site!
Also read our Basics of Pyrotechnic Safety article to learn more.