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Engraving of gunpowder production: MFA# 2014.44


A rapidly burning material used as a propellant in guns and rifles. Gunpowder was invented in China in the 9th century. It is composed of a mixture of Potassium nitrate (75 %), Sulfur (10 %), and Charcoal (15 %). Gunpowder burns inefficiently leaving copious residues of Soot and alkaline potassium hydroxides. If left uncleaned after firing, the residues will rapidly degrade the barrel.

Smokeless powder

Synonyms and Related Terms

black powder; propellant; smokeless powder; krudt (Dan.); Schwarzpulver (Deut.); Schießpulver (Deut.); pólvora (Esp.); krutt (Nor.); buskruit (Ned.); proch (Pol.); krut (Sven.); gun powder

Resources and Citations

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