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Miscellaneous: Black powder

Black powder is a pyrotechnic composition that is composed of three main components: potassium nitrate, sulphur and carbon. This composition burns very rapidly and creates a great amount of hot gases, along with certain solid products as well. These solid particles are responsible for the characteristic creation of smoke during the combustion of this composition.

The amounts of the mentioned components varied through history, and nowadays, depending on the purpose, black powder can still be based on various compositions. In the basic formula of this composition there is 75% of potassium nitrate, 15% of carbon and 10% of sulphur. That means that 75 grams of potassium nitrate, 15 grams of carbon and 10 grams of sulphur are needed in order to make this simple pyrotechnic composition.

black powder

Along with the mentioned components, a relatively accurate scale and a grinder (or a similar device) are needed. Each of the mentioned components needs to be powdered separately, and after each use, the grinder needs to be thoroughly cleaned and wiped. In this case, there is no danger of spontaneous ignition since the black powder is resistant to friction and shock. However, it is still a good idea to powder each component separately, because there are certain pyrotechnic compositions that are not as stable as black powder, and in these cases, this step presents an important security measure.

black powder

After every component has been powdered, they can be mixed in a container. The components are mixed together until the composition becomes homogeneous enough. Black powder should have a dark grey color when mixed properly.

black powder

After the components have been mixed, the composition is finished. By using this procedure, one gets a black powder of an avarage quality, which is eventually good enough for the production of fuses.

black powder

The quality of black powder depends mostly on the level of fragmentation of component particles in the composition. Although in this case a grinder was used to powder the components, in the industrial production, special ball mills are used which powder the components with the help of heavy spheres that can be made of various materials. During the operation of these devices, with the help of gravitation, the balls drop constantly on the material which is being powdered. The result is a very finely powdered material. Black powder made by using this kind of grinding is of higher quality and has many different uses in the pyrotechnics industry.

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