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Author Topic: What is saltpeter?  (Read 47784 times)

cuso4

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What is saltpeter?
« on: 27/01/2004 12:33:58 »
I came across a piece of information that says gunpowder are made of charcoal, sulphur and salpeter. What is salpeter anyway?

Angel

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« Last Edit: 20/03/2010 22:05:03 by chris »

Ylide

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #1 on: 27/01/2004 15:30:17 »
Potassium nitrate.

Supposedly it was also used in prisons and boy's schools to prevent erections, but I'm not sure how much of that is urban legend.

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chris

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #2 on: 27/01/2004 23:04:30 »
Where does saltpeter come from naturally ? I read a beatiful piece the other day that said that one way to make it is to add potassium carbonate solution (potash) to a compost heap / dung heap and collect the filtrate.

The argument goes that calcium in the heap sequesters the carbonate as limestone (CaCO3) whilst the soluble nitrates leach out as KNO3 and can be collected and crystallised.

Clearly this isn't how the chinese did it - so where did they get their saltpeter ?

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Ylide

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #3 on: 28/01/2004 00:16:08 »
The only natural source of potassium nitrate I've ever heard of is collected from bat guano, but that's not to say it's the only source.  



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Ylide

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #4 on: 28/01/2004 00:18:58 »
Come to think of it, digestion of nitrogenous material (i.e. proteins) could very well lead to production of nitrates in the excretory system...so I'm betting the Chinese got it from some sort of excrement, be it bat or what-have-you.



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bezoar

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #5 on: 28/01/2004 02:55:59 »
So what in the world ever possessed the Chinese to collect filtrate from a dung heap and feed to to people to prevent erections?  And you think the Americans have problems?

Ylide

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #6 on: 28/01/2004 05:52:02 »
I'm not sure if you're kidding.  

I believe Chris was referring to the Chinese using it to make gunpowder.  (they invented it and all)

Looking at China's population, I'm almost positive they have no chemical-induced erection problems.



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cuso4

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #7 on: 28/01/2004 08:21:12 »
quote:
Originally posted by chris


Clearly this isn't how the chinese did it - so where did they get their saltpeter ?

Chris

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 - Groucho Marx



....From pig's manure.

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bezoar

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #8 on: 28/01/2004 15:04:19 »
Sounds like a scat society to me.  I'd have to agree, they don't seem to have any problems with erections, saltpeter notwithstanding.

Quantumcat

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #9 on: 03/02/2004 13:33:07 »
Why do you say that, bezoar?

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Ylide

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #10 on: 03/02/2004 23:28:52 »
MAybe because there is an awful lot of them?

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Q and A

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #11 on: 06/02/2004 00:01:43 »
Salt peter is commonly used in livestock to control breeding. It does appear to work in humans too. A little experiment was done with this to a couple of friends.;)


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bezoar

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #12 on: 06/02/2004 00:19:38 »
Yep, there are plenty of Chinese, but why in the world did they start digging around in feces to figure out what they could make out of it?  Maybe, what with so many of them, it was an abundant natural resource, but you have to kind of wonder what made them think of that in the first place.  I always wondered what attracted some docs to proctology.  Seems strange to me.

etews2

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #13 on: 17/05/2004 23:57:02 »
I just visited the Brandywine valley of Delaware where cuPont built the first quality gunpowder factory in the US in 1802.  Saltpeter was imported as a crude salt from India.  duPont purified the salt by dissolving in water, skimming off the crud, and crystalizing the solution to dryness.  Alternate sources are biological action on manure, "night soil" (as in human), with wood ashes added to the mix and the liquids draining captured and purified.  in fact, the southern ladies were proud to add their part to the manufacture of saltpeter (postassium nitrate) during the American war between the states when imports from India were embargoed.

gsmollin

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #14 on: 18/05/2004 01:59:17 »
"...the war between the states..." Must be a southerner.

tweener

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #15 on: 18/05/2004 20:05:09 »
quote:
Originally posted by gsmollin

"...the war between the states..." Must be a southerner.



Any you must be a d---yankee. :D

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OmnipotentOne

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #16 on: 05/06/2004 15:57:28 »
I heard it was used in millitary training camps for teenagers, not possitive about that, but what i am sure of is that when combined with sugar makes one heck of a smoke bomb!!

pyromaster222

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #17 on: 15/10/2005 14:18:42 »
it does not make a bomb when combined with sugar but this micture is often used as a rocket propellant.

daveshorts

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #18 on: 15/10/2005 16:54:04 »
There was also a process which somehow involved oxidising the urea in urine to saltpeter. I am not sure of the exact process but it happens naturally in animal sheds as you can sometimes see the phosphorescent glow from the saltpeter in old animal sheds.

I belive that at one point there was alaw that said you had to collect all the urine made in your house and give it to special urine collectors who would then make saltpeter with it.

pyromaster222

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #19 on: 15/10/2005 17:06:44 »
yes its something like mixing urine with decomposing matter and then leaving it for a long time then filtering. You should then theoretically get potassium nitrate. Thats how potassium nitrate was synthesised back in the day.I sure wouldnt like to be a saltpetre boy.

ukmicky

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #20 on: 15/10/2005 17:13:40 »
i think you can extract pottasium nitrate from urine  by removing the water content and using battery acid.
not sure how its done though. i could be totally wrong though:)

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« Last Edit: 15/10/2005 17:15:43 by ukmicky »

pyromaster222

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #21 on: 15/10/2005 19:08:01 »
Saltpetre is KNO3 and urine is urea. urea basically provides the nitrate (NO3-) part but i dont see how battery acid, which is sulphuric acid, could provide the potassium. in fact i dont know where the potassium comes from even for the original method (decomposing matter+urine)

Simmer

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #22 on: 16/10/2005 16:30:17 »
I saw a programme about traditional gunpowder manufacture quite  recently.  As you say, the urea in the urine decomposes to ammonia, which is converted by bacterial action in the dung heap to nitrate.  The product, mixed nitrates, was then mixed with wood ash, which provides the potassium.

Potassium nitrate is fairly insoluble in cold water and very soluble in hot so a cold wash and a hot extraction would serve to purify it (plus a bit of sieving to remove the bigger lumps of fecal matter, I suppose xx()

pyromaster222

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #23 on: 16/10/2005 18:06:20 »
yes that would make sense as wood ash is mainly potassium carbonate

jaydee

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Re: What is saltpeter?
« Reply #24 on: 05/11/2005 05:14:03 »
I believe KNO3 does occur naturally, hence the name sal pičtre - salt stone. Wikipedia is good on this sort of thing. Also capn James T Kirk collected some, shook it up in a bit of bamboo with some suphur and charcoal he found lying about and made a weapon to get a big beastie with. He showed mercy before crushing bb's head with a rock and was therefore recognised as an advanced life form.

 

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