Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Gunpowder from Table Salt

ElchScience - 20-9-2016 at 13:24

Hello everybody!
I made some Gunpowder from table salt using some easily available items.

I would love to hear what you think and if you have any ideas for improving this besides using potassium chloride. :D (That would be too easy :P)

EDIT: Changed the word Blackpowder to Gunpowder because of a complain. :D

[Edited on 21-9-2016 by ElchScience]

Fulmen - 20-9-2016 at 14:52

Table salt does not contain any of the elements that make up Black Powder. Get your shit together son, or you're not going to last long here.

Maroboduus - 20-9-2016 at 15:10

Yeah.... I don't think it's black powder if you make it with sodium chlorate (the video makes this from table salt). it's something else which I forget the name of which Bertholet or somebody like that tried to introduce as a gunpowder substitute. After many deaths ensued he gave up on that project.
I'm not a big energetic chemistry guy, but I do believe that chlorates and sulphur are generally a bad mix. I'd avoid them like herpes. (I'm sure somebody with more experience in blowing things up will chime in shortly to either confirm or refute my opinion).
I believe the problem is at least partly that chloric acid is so unstable, and sulphur can introduce acidic impurities which decompose some of the chlorate to the unstable chloric acid. If I'm right, then perchlorates ought to be safer, but if black powder is all you want, just get some saltpeter, or make some. Best not to get innovative with propellants or explosives until you REALLY know your stuff.

OneEyedPyro - 20-9-2016 at 15:35

Chlorate and sulfur is a pretty bad mix but a few percent sodium bicarbonate helps to make it reasonably stable.

It's good for salutes but I'd avoid using it as any kind of propellant.

ElchScience - 21-9-2016 at 02:39

Thank you for the feedback everybody! :-)

I am aware you shouldn't mix sulfur with chlorates as I mentioned in the video because it might get far too dangerous. I just wanted an explosion for the end and scince I had trouble doing that with just charcoal. So that's the only time I used a little.

@Fulmen You are right I changed the name to Gunpowder now it should be correct. :D
I never read anywhere that you can't substitute nitrates for chlorates
in Blackpowder but if I call it Gunpowder you certainly can.

About the dangers I think I now my stuff good enough because I just made small quantities of the powder at once and used it right away so there wasn't a lot of time for the formation of chloric acid. But thanks anyways for the tips on safety I am always willing to learn something new! :-)
Also I might try to use sodium bicarbonate the thing is though that my Gunpowder killed itself so quickly because the sodium chlorate is fairly hygroscopic that I was more worried about the powder not going of at all then it going of too soon. :D

greenlight - 21-9-2016 at 03:13

Chlorate, sulphur and a fuel? I hope you never put that in a mill or grinding device!
You could make very high quality black powder if you used a mill and potassium nitrate instead of a chlorate. Plus you don't have to worry about chloric acid formation or the hygroscopicity of sodium chlorate.
I am sure there is a story in COPAE about an experiment done at a powder manufacturing facility to make a high powdered gunpwder using chlorate instead of nitrate and this resulted in an explosion and loss of lives. The idea has been long abandoned since then.

ElchScience - 21-9-2016 at 06:10

I was just trying to make an entertaining and maybe educational science video. This is not a video on how you can get the perfect gunpowder to blow stuff up. :D
I said in the video that I tried avoiding sulfur because it is far to dangerous but it didn't explode without it, so I mixed in a little bit carefully.
Also my intent isn't to make something "better" then we already have. This was just a fun challenge for me. :D (With the plan of making an interesting fun to watch video.)
If I would want to blow stuff up I would go on amazon or ebay and order me lots of potassium nitrate and use that. In my mind that is just booooring. :D

But anyway thank you for the feedback I always apreciate that! :-)

Bert - 22-9-2016 at 06:02

Berthelot and the Essones powder mill chlorate gunpowder explosion

ElchScience - 22-9-2016 at 07:53

Alright I get it my selfmade Gunpowder is not safe. XD But very interesting story though! Thanks a lot for that. :-)

If my Gunpowder would have gone of beforehand it probably would have hurt but I doubt it would kill me. I am pretty confident if you don't go beyond a coulple grams with these unconfined gunpowder mixtures (that I didn't even mix together all that well) I should be fairly safe. It is not like I made an incredibly high explosive like armstrongs mixture. (I am way more scared of that.^^) Or am I wrong on that assumption?

Marvin - 22-9-2016 at 08:58

Armstrongs mixture and chlorate sulfur mixtures have similar hazards, both will go high order and both are specifically banned under the same legislation in this country.

Blackpowder is well understood, the chemistry is stable and it can be done safely at home a little education and preparation. In many countries this is possible without breaking any laws.

ElchScience - 22-9-2016 at 10:53

But do you really think that the my gunpowder mixture is as dangerous as armstrongs mixture? I mean I worked a lot with Armstrongs mixture already, making it myself from matches teaching/ demonstrating it in school, birthday parties and I never made more then like 300 mg at once but it was always really, really scary when it went off. :D (Especially how easy it goes off.)

I never had any similar results with my charcoal/sulfur mixtures. It only ever deflagrates/ explodes.
The only time I have seen a reaction similar to armstrongs mixture (a real detonation) was when I hit it really hard with a hammer. Even that it didn't make a comparable bang.
I think that even a pure sulfur chlorate mixture wasn't too bad.
Should I do some more tests on that? Cause I think this can actually be a pretty interesting discussion.
My Objective is always to do interesting things not many people have done before. I am less interested in making something that is already well researched. But I am always open for all kinds of suggestions!

Also I am still a little surprised that I am getting only safety related feedback even though I am very thankful for it I really didn't think I was beeing all that dangerous. (Obviously I could be totally wrong.)

But thank you anyways! :-)

greenlight - 22-9-2016 at 11:42

Your gunpowder mixture probably isn't as dangerous and sensitive as armstrongs mix especially when it is freshly made and not stored.
You have not had similar results comparing your gunpowder to armstrongs mix because your gunpowder is a propellant and will need confinement (between the hammer head and the ground etc) to get a report.
The armstrongs mix is in a different class and is practically a primary explosive.
It needs little to no confinement to explode with a report and not nearly as much shock or friction as your gunpowder would.
A more unsensitized version of it is used in childrens toy caps I believe.

Unfortunately, most of the time but not always, compositions and energetic things that havn't been researched much or seem untried yet the chems/equipment are available to the home experimenter, haven't been done for a reason (usually a safety reason).
Most current research I am guessing would be with reagents and equipment that would be quite hard to obtain for most of us.:(

Morgan - 22-9-2016 at 13:07

Maybe you could make some of these.
Hand Blasters

ElchScience - 22-9-2016 at 13:12

I totally agree with what you are saying in regards to the danger of my explosive mixtures. This is also exactly what my experience has shown.

If working with explosives, from what I gathered over the couple years I have been doing this, is that if you keeps the amounts small enough you are usually fine.
I am pretty sure a lot of stuff has been tried already but I am trying to do stuff primarily that hasn't been done on youtube.
Currently I am trying to figure out a good way to make elemental sodium, how to make sulfuric acid from iron sulfate (really cheap fertiliser) and ammonium dichromate from stainless steel (As a solid). All stuff I haven't found any good youtube videos for. But I am pretty sure people have thought of all this beforehand.
If you put in the time for it you can get pretty much all chemicals at home. (As long as you have the elements) That is what I am mainly trying to prove. Obviously there are always better ways to do the things I am doing at home and that is what I am constantly looking for.
You can always do research because an infinite amount of things have not been researched yet and only a very finite amount of things have. You would be surprised with what you can do just in your backyard. So that is what I would encourage you and everybody to do. :-) You can go far if you want to and if you are willing to put in the time...
Also thank you for your feedback! :-)

ElchScience - 22-9-2016 at 13:22

The Handblasters seem like a really fun toy. I really might try that even though I have no idea how these are glued together. Guess I'll have to figure that out. Thanks for the suggestion! I am especially curious if sulfur and chlorate alone are that sensitive or if I need to add something else. Or maybe it's because they are made with something fairly heavy. Hm now time to figure that out. :D

Morgan - 22-9-2016 at 14:01

Here's some tidbit about them.
A variation of the caps used in cap guns are called Blaster Balls marketed by Placo Products Co., CosmosĀ®, and
others. These consist of a set of two ceramic balls of different colors (usually yellow and black, or red and blue),
which are both coated with a thin layer of the same chemical mixture of potassium chlorate, sulfur, glue, and -
powdered glass (silica). To use Blaster Balls, holding one ball in the hand, toss the other ball into the air and catch it
by bringing the hand with the ball upward cracking the balls together. When the coated surfaces of the two balls hit
together, there is a cap-like blast produced. The same cap-like blast can be produced if a single ball hits a high
silica-containing substance, such as concrete, indicating that the silica produces sufficient friction, and heat, to
detonate the chemical mixture. A pair of Blaster Balls can produce over 200 blasts. (NOTE: Although Blaster Balls
are non-flammable, a mixture of potassium chlorate and sulfur is explosive and is unpredictable in any quantity.)

[Edited on 22-9-2016 by Morgan]

Marvin - 22-9-2016 at 14:13

Chlorate sulfur mixtures in my experience are boring in practice and dangerous by reputation. Sulfur is no substitute for Phosphorous if you are trying to make Armstrong's mixture. When mixtures are kept they can catch fire or detonate or just sit there slowly going sour. Buffered mixtures can be stable for months at least, but it can depend on impurities and the surfaces they are touching. Ultimately they killed and maimed so many people they were banned. The evidence isn't a theory, it's a body pile.

If you want a bang and you are mature enough to keep it to a hundreds of milligrams then Armstrong's can be a good plan, nitrogen triiodide. They are not safe, but they never pretend to be safe.

It's a downer to have accomplished something only to get a bunch of people telling you off but from our point of view you've just advertised to half the internet that the king snakes hibernating in this old log make great pets and we know know they are coral snakes.

ElchScience - 22-9-2016 at 15:08

@Morgan First of all thank you for the additional information. This really sounds like a lot of fun! I am going to try to do something with this sooner or later. :-) (Probably when I get around to making potassium chlorate again.)

@Marvin Yes I agree that using sulfur chlorate mixture is not a good idea and has resulted in deaths. Also I don't want to encourage anybody to repeat my experiments.
This isn't a "how to" video it is just a hopefully interesting and fun to watch science video. I am very thankful for all the feedback I have been getting from you guys because it helps me to make better videos in the future. So next time I will be more clear in my intentions.
I don't think it is a downer if people tell me of. That is the only way I can improve. I can't be thankful enough that people are taking the time to look at my stuff and give me feedback. That is the fastest way for me to learn.
So yeah next time I promise I will do better and until then thanks again for the feedback! <3

Maroboduus - 22-9-2016 at 18:07

ElchScience: I read the rest of these posts, and you are a remarkably good-natured guy. Good luck with all your future projects.

Marvin: You've got a real gift for metaphor. I wanted to say much the same thing but couldn't have possibly put it so colorfully and succinctly.

Scalebar - 23-9-2016 at 00:02

Quote: Originally posted by ElchScience  
The Handblasters seem like a really fun toy. I really might try that even though I have no idea how these are glued together. Guess I'll have to figure that out. Thanks for the suggestion! I am especially curious if sulfur and chlorate alone are that sensitive or if I need to add something else. Or maybe it's because they are made with something fairly heavy. Hm now time to figure that out. :D

Skylighter fireworks have the recipe and how to on their site.

Isn't Chlorate/charcoal without sulphur used as a bursting mix in pyrotechnics?

greenlight - 23-9-2016 at 01:10

Yeah, H3 burst is potassium chlorate, charcoal and a binder.
There are perchlorate versions as well containing sulfur and other chems.

ElchScience - 23-9-2016 at 10:42

@Maroboduus Thank you for the compliment! :D

@Scalebar Thank you for the website looks pretty cool! :-)

Why didn't my charcoal chlorate mixture without the sulfur burst? Did I not confine it enough or was my sodium chlorate too impure. Or did I do something else wrong? :D

greenlight - 23-9-2016 at 21:16

Was the chlorate and charcoal milled or ground to a fine powder before mixing together?
Was the sodium chlorate wet from moisture in the air?
Did it have enough confinement, shouldn't need too much for chlorate-based powder I would think

zwt - 23-9-2016 at 21:40

Quote: Originally posted by ElchScience  
Why didn't my charcoal chlorate mixture without the sulfur burst?
Wikipedia says: "Sulfur's main role in gunpowder is to decrease the ignition temperature", "...thereby increasing the rate of combustion."

This isn't really gunpowder, but the principle could be the same.

[Edited on 24-9-2016 by zwt]

Marvin - 24-9-2016 at 04:53

H3 and blackpowder require some skill to manufacture. The better the processing, the better the performance. I have a fair amount of experience with chlorate/charcoal mixtures, sodium chlorate I could find locally and I couldn't find potassium nitrate anywhere at the time. It took me a lot of experimentation before I reached the flying biscuit stage. I would not go back to chlorates for toxicity and compatibility reasons but it was easier than blackpowder.

ElchScience - 25-9-2016 at 03:24

My mixture was pretty well confined. My Potassium chlorate charcoal mixtures exploded without almost any confinment. So my guess would be that a mixture of both kept it from exploding. It wasn't white so I clearly had some imurities. Also it is pretty hygroskopic and maybe my hotplate is not strong enough to drive all the water of.
I did not mix it too well but using potassium chlorate it exploded without any mixing. So that probably is not the issue cause I had a fairly homogenous mixture.
And yes sulfur plays most likely exactly the same role here as in regular blackpowder.

Lord Elthois - 22-4-2018 at 05:28

Here is how you do it properly: