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Thread: Gunpowder in alchemy

  1. #1
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    Gunpowder in alchemy

    Wikipedia has some interesting information about the origin of gunpowder.

    A first vague reference seems to appear at 142 AD in a Taoist text on alchemy.
    First written notice of its ingredients appear 3 hundred years later by Baopuzi. According to wiki:
    The "Inner Chapters" (neipian) on Taoism contains records of his experiments to create gold with heated saltpeter, pine resin, and charcoal among other carbon materials, resulting in a purple powder and arsenic vapours
    A purple powder could be colloidal gold.
    In another reference:
    One of the resulting alchemical experiments involved heating 10% sulfur and 75% saltpeter to transform them.
    Widespread usage for warfare purposes appears at around the 9th century AD. Even to this day, the term "fire medicine" ("huoyao" 火藥) refers to gunpowder in China "a reminder of its heritage as a side result in the search for longevity increasing medicines."

    Gunpowder was a well kept secret for more than a millenium. When common people learned something about it, they used it primarily for the destruction of mankind. Alchemists were notorious for smelling sulfur and having explosions in their labs.

    In Europe, the gunpowder recipe was described by Roger Bacon. Some researchers noted that the ratios 7:5:5 given by Bacon, will not result in the most "thundery" gunpowder but in the most "smoky"...

    Sometimes the answer is in front of us from the begining but we couldn't see.

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    This is the base of the dry path of antimony

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    Quote Originally Posted by Argento Vivo View Post
    This is the base of the dry path of antimony
    Antimony may have many hidden meanings. Could it be coal or volcanic sulfur?
    What is the process of the "dry path of antimony"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by theFool View Post
    Antimony may have many hidden meanings. Could it be coal or volcanic sulfur?
    What is the process of the "dry path of antimony"?
    Sure, there is Antimony (i prefer to call it stibium) and there is antimony, the common stibnite. The way of dry processing stibnite is the one given by Magophon, but there is need of using the infamous secrrt fire, which is not nitrate, nor common dew salt or urine salts neither. Only the philosophical will work.

    Then is the Antimony, which the Ancients named STIBIUM, or, by anagram, BISMUTI... And it is The Matter.

    But in dry path commonly followed, the initial reaction is always the same: iron + stibnite + tartar and niter salts. This makes reaction on the fire, and the sulfur in the stibnite, with potash and niter make a nice "puffing" detonation.

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    Thanks for your input!
    Quote Originally Posted by Argento Vivo View Post
    But in dry path commonly followed, the initial reaction is always the same: iron + stibnite + tartar and niter salts. This makes reaction on the fire, and the sulfur in the stibnite, with potash and niter make a nice "puffing" detonation.
    And then what? Where is the "cheddar"? Is it in the fumes?

  6. #6
    I have been rather busy but really wanted to share this from the golden chain of homer when I saw this topic

    That nitre and salt are found in the air and in all things in this World.

    As we cannot ascend towards the heavenly Bodies, we must judge of what is above by that which is below within our reach. The Firmament is full of Light, Light is nothing else but attracted and repulsed, moved and manifested fire of Nature or Universal spirit. This further agitated and concentrated produces Heat and fire. Nitre is coagulated fire concealed in air and Humidity; therefore we say and conclude, that the Heavens or intermediate Space between us and the Heavenly Bodies consists of, or is filled with a most volatile incorporeal nitre, which as it descends into our Atmosphere and probably other atmospheres of Heavenly Bodies becomes gradually more and more corporeal. Let this suffice concerning the Spiritual Heavenly nitre. That there is nitre and salt in the Air is plain by lightning, thunder and Hail. Here on Earth we cannot find another subject which fulminates, thunders, and hails besides nitre or stalteous things.

    Nitre is born spiritual and volatile in the Heavens, in the atmosphere it becomes acid but remains spiritual and volatile, in water and earth it assumes a visible and palpable Body; how that happens that it inflames hails, fulminates and thunders in the atmosphere, we will first demonstrate theoretically by physical reasons, and then mechanically by practice.

    Nitre does not fulminate, except it meets with a contrary agent and is excited by heat.

    The more volatile and subtil the nitre is, the more vehemently it fulminates and is the easier enflamed.

    In the same manner volatile and subtil its contrary agent is the more vehement, sudden and powerful in their mutual operation. The Light heavenly fire and Life of all things is condense in the atmosphere in the form of a subtil volatile nitre and this must have a contrary agent for its operation.

    In order that this volatile nitre may obtain a contrary agent, there ascends continually out of the Earth, Ocean and Rivers an equally subtil, volatile, sulphureous, alcaline Earth in the shape of Vapours, Fumes, and Fogs, filled with salt alcalicum Volatile. This is the natural evaporation of the Earth excited by the Central heat of the Earth. This ascends continually to meet the Volatile incorporeal nitre, now, when they do meet in a dry rarified atmosphere they are moved by the Sun's Rays, which by those ascending Vapours are collected and concentrated, whereby these Vapours become more and more heated until the subtil nitre takes fire and fulminates with this contrary sulphureous, volatile, alcaline agent, rarefies the air all round and thunders with dreadful Explosions as we observe during hot, dry, Summer days.

    When on the contrary the atmosphere is dense and loaded with humidity, these two Universal Agents meet peaceably: the subtil nitre joins itself and embraces quietly the volatile sulphureous alcali without any vehement concussions: as is the case in Winter, when Humidity and Cold prevail in our atmosphere. Humidity and Cold hinder the inflammation and, consequently the fulmen.

    Take nitre let it melt in a crucible, in an open fire, add to it a volatile alcaline sulphureous nitre, such as sal ammoniac or volatile nitre of urine, which is also sulphureous, or a volatile earth. Such are Charcoal, Mineral sulphur, Vegetable and Animal Oils, and the nitre will take fire and fulminate like gunpowder; the more volatile the earth or the nitre is, but in a dry state, the more violently does the nitre fulminate, and this reaction takes place only in a dry heat, but in humidity they unite peaceably and quietly. Humidity is here a third Medium which prevents the fulmen.

    If you dissolve volatile salt of urine, or sal ammoniac with nitre in water, both are dissolved without violence or alteration, but if this humidity or water is evaporated and coagulated over the fire to dryness, so that they only commence to melt, they inflame and fulminate immediately. Another evident proof we have in Aurum fulminans.

    The reason of its fulmen many have sought to explain, but few have known it.
    Many chemists have attributed this fulmen to the sun itself: some to compressed air, but here is the true reason:

    The fulmen explained

    Sun is dissolved in aqua regia, which must contain com. nitre or sal ammoniac in order to become aqua regia. The sun when dissolved is precipitateted with fixt oil of tartar or with any other alcali, such as a volatile salt of urine, or so-called spirit of urine, and the Sol falls to the bottom as a Spongy quicklime.
    Although this quicklime is edulcorated or washed a 100 times with water, yet you will not take its fulmen from it by washing because some of the vinegar and alcaline salt remain fixed therein so that such a sun quicklime becomes heavier than the sun employed. Now let us examine the quicklime or sun fulminans.
    It is on the same foundation of nitre and sal ammoniac dissolved in, and then evaporated to dryness, with this difference, that here in the progress of the sun fulminans, the ingredients or principles are subtilised, and in the former solution only crude. The aqua regia is composed of aqua fortis and sal ammoniac or Sea salt; aqua fortis is spirit of nitre, the oil of Tartar for the precipitation is a fixt alchali. Now when the sun is dissolved in the aqua regia containing a highly volatile nitre by means of sal ammoniac as being a volatile alcaline earth it is then precipitated with the oil of Tartar, which is a subtil fixt alcaline earth, the vinegar spirit in the aqua fortis are here partly saturated, precipitated and fixed by the salt of Tartar their enemy and contrary, and as this fixt salt is more porous than the earth of sun, it lets go the sun after having impregnated it first strongly with fixt vinegar nitreous and volatile alcaline spirits, as much as the atoms of sun will receive; for that reason it precipitates the sun to the bottom and detains it as an earth. Every dry earth is greedy to receive a salt, arid as these two salts of the aqua fortis and sal ammoniac are very subtil and volatile they are easily excited and inflamed by the least motion or smallest Heat: as soon as they feel that, Heat, they fulminate and break forth downwards, as gunpowder shows its greatest force upwards. Thus the volatile nitre and volatile alcali in the sal ammoniac as powerful Re-agents cause the fulmen and explosion and not the sun.

    The cause of the sun's explosion downwards is because it is a fixed earth which inclines downwards, whilst the charcoal in the gunpowder being a volatile sulphureous earth explodes upwards.

    We also observe a great difference between the force of the explosion of sun fulm, and of common gunpowder, the explosion of sun fulm being three times as violent as that of gunpowder because in the sun fulm is a spiritual volatile highly subtilised nitre, whilst the gunpowder is composed of crude corporeal nitre; therefore the more subtil, volatile and spiritual the counter-agents are, the greater must be the effect.
    If you precipitate to the sun quicklime, in the room of taking a fixt alcali such as the oil Tartari pr. delig. with a subtilised, volatilised alcali, such as a salt volatile urineae or a vol: salt of Hartshorn, the fulmen and explosion will be still more violent. Thus we have demonstrated that the fulmen and explosion proceeds from the Universal principles and not from the sun.

    On the contrary if you want to take the fulminating power from the sun quicklime, proceed in this way; After having well washed your sun fulm., let the humidity drain from it on blotting paper; then make a strong alcaline lye of fixed salt of Tartar and water, or of pure potash and water, or oil of Tartar and water, and boil your sun fulminans is such a lye for about 15 or 20 minutes, then wash and dry the quicklime and its fulmen is entirely gone and lost.
    The reason of this phenomenon is, that the fixt alcaline lye dissolves the volatile vinegar and alcaline counter-agents, which had fixed themselves in the golden earth, and dissolving them destroys their union, and by its fixity destroys the power of fulminating anymore.

    From all this it appears plain that the fulminating quality proceeds from volatile nitre and a subtil, volatile alcali or a volatile sulphureous earth, such as the charcoal sulphur, and the more volatile those agents are, the stronger is the fulmen; and the fixer they are, the less the fulminate. If you project an oil, sulphur, charcoal dust, arsenic, [unidentified symbol], antimony, etc. into fluid nitre, they repel each other and cause a violent reaction according to the volatility and oiliness of the projected agent.

    On the contrary, if you project common nitre or fixed salt of Tartar or any fixed alcali, or a fixed earth, such as terra sigillata, chalk, quicklime, which contains nothing volatile into melted nitre, you will see no re-action, but they will soon unite peaceably and fix each other, without fulminating. We have now proved theoretically and practically that there is a volatile nitre and salt in the air, and that the fulmen proves it, as well as the experiment with thunder-rain water.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philosophical View Post
    I have been rather busy but really wanted to share this from the golden chain of homer when I saw this topic
    Pertinent, but we know that Nitre and Salt are the 2 big enigmas of Homer, so this quote is quite a bit tricky to truly grasp, as the text doesnt involve vulgar matters.

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