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Why was cordite invented?

  1. Apr 20, 2005 #1
    Good morning campers, well PF members.

    Although my question is needed my homework I am also interested in the history of what I will ask, hence the reason it is in the chemistry section.

    I also ask that mentors do not close this thread as I should only be talking about gunpowder to TNT, which can be found on the interent if one looks (and so will make no difference if I ask questions about the history of them here).

    It appears I have a gap in my history of the develpoment of explosives. I can say that gunpowder (or black powder) was invented by the Chinese in about the 10th century (although looks of web sites say different centuries but this accuaracy is not too imporant). The explosive made its way to Europe in about the fourteenth century and was used in battle. Problem with it was the smoke.

    1846 and 1847 saw two inventions/discoveries. One was nitrocellulose and the other was nitroglycerine. Both unstable and dangerous. However, both solved the problem that gunpowder had: they were smokeless.

    Mixing the two together with petrolatum and adding propanone in the final stages create cordite. I believe this invented in the 1880s.

    Then not too much really happened, well minus two World Wars.

    Then it was the turn of Nobel to invent dynamite sticks in 1867. This is where my problem comes in.

    Nobel used nitroglycerine but it did not seem to come from cordite (obvious as the dates do not make this possible). Am I to believe that Nobel invented dynamite without the knowledge of nitrocellulose and used nitrogylcerine to make dynamte? If so, why was cordite invented? I see no reason for it to be manufactured when dynamite was around. Finally, what is the chemical formula for kieselguhr (it was used to make nitrogylcerine safe)?

    Thank you very much :smile:

    I know the question sounds stupid but I cannot find the answer anywhere. I would assume but I am not that sort of person.

    The Bob (2004 ©)
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2005 #2
    I suppose cordite was invented for the reason many things are invented, to produce something useful and to make money for the inventor. It's better to have two different ways of making something useful than just one. One obvious practical benefit is that you can get a patent on it and not have to pay Nobel money for dynamite. In fact, I believe Nobel created an explosive similar to cordite, and sued the creators of cordite for patent infringement. Don't know how that turned out. If I'm not mistaken, cordite is also easier to shape into cords (obviously) which can be used to control the rate of burning for different purposes.

    I've never heard of keiselguhr, but if it's what Nobel used to make nitroglycerin safe, then the English translation would be "diatomaceous earth." So no chemical formula.

    If you think nothing important happened after WWI in explosives chemistry, you'd be quite incorrect. A number of useful explosives have been developed since then, C4 for instance. And scientists are still after the ever allusive octanitrocubane.
  4. Apr 20, 2005 #3
    I didn't think that. It is simply that I have to keep he report very short so I am going the brief history from gunpowder to TNT.

    Thanks for what you said but still, as a point to all, Nobel must have known about nitroglycerine but did he invent dynamite not knowing about nitrocellulose or was his invention in the same sort of year as cordite?

    The Bob (2004 ©)
  5. Apr 20, 2005 #4
    Well, I was mainly talking about the part where you wrote:

    "then not much really happened, minus two world wars."

    Anyway, I don't know if Nobel was aware of nitrocellulose when he invented dynamite. At the time, most were using nitroglycerin for mining, demolitions, etc. and it was highly dangerous stuff. In fact, I believe Nobel's own son was killed in an explosion at a nitroglycerin production plant. So the need to improve nitroglycerin's safety, i.e. in the form of dynamite, was obvious.

    Dynamite was invented, I believe, a couple of decades before cordite. Nobel's cordite-esque explosive would have been invented just about the same time as cordite. I believe it was essentially the same material, only he used a slightly different method of formulation that was not different enough for the courts to rule in his favor.
  6. Apr 20, 2005 #5
    I see. Well what I wanted to know has been confirmed here so thank you very much. :biggrin:

    The Bob (2004 ©)

    P.S. It was Nobel's borther (Emi) that was killed in the nitroglycerine plants.
  7. Apr 24, 2005 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    I just remembered...

    IIRC cordite and dynamite have differenct characteristics - first burns on surface only, second explodes. Explosion is defined as burning with the reaction front moving faster then 1 km/sec. As effect explosives are useless in guns, while gun-powder is not as effective as explosives for blowing things up.

    Don't treat this information as too precise, it's been over ten years since I have read anything on the subject.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 13, 2013
  8. Apr 24, 2005 #7
    I see (sorry, only just noticed that this post was here as my computer showed there were no new posts in this section of the forums). Thanks for that then.

    My next problem is the difference between high and low explosives. I was going to say that high exploisves take less energy to start (as nitroglycerine can be detonated by the tough of a feather). However, I found that gunpowder (a low explosive) takes less energy to exploded than a nitroglycerine. This just confuses me more and more.

    The Bob (2004 ©)
  9. Apr 25, 2005 #8
    Nobel invented ballistite in 1887 after he invented dynamite, to use as propellants. in guns and cannons allowing shells to be used instead of balls, the british failed to regonize nobel patant and in 1889 invented cordate again to be used as propellants, as it is a low explosive. dynamite being a high explosive the diffrence is that high explosives do not burn rather detonate (from the greek word to thunder) high explosives do not need to be compact to create an explosion where as low explosives burn and will only explode under pressure

    by the way do you take chemistry at AS and are doing your open book because if you are try reading your book

    if you need help or have any information on the production safety then feel free in contacting me at japanesesandman@hotmail.com
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2005
  10. Apr 25, 2005 #9
    Understand this better now. The problem was I was thinking too deep.

    Yes I am and you will have an e-mail. :biggrin:

    The Bob (2004 ©)
  11. Sep 16, 2005 #10
    enthalpy of mixture explosives

    my question is about mixtures
    can i calculate enthalpy of a mixture explosive? for example for ANFO. if i can not how i can calculate potential of this type explosives?
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