Gunpowder Combustion Gas
Name: Krista K.
What waste gas will be formed when gunpowder is burned?
Gunpowder refers to range of mixtures of charcoal (carbon), sulfur, and potassium or sodium nitrate.
The products of reaction are complex, but contain the obvious products of CO2, CO, SO2, N2, nitrogen
oxides, and probably other compounds as well. Unlike, say nitrocellulose, the reaction products of
gunpowder are ill-defined. In fact only about 50% of the products are gaseous. In contrast to
explosives that produce a supersonic shock wave, gunpowder is "just" a rapid combustion, that is
the expansion of the gases is sub-sonic. If it were not ancient muzzle loaders would detonate in the
shooters face rather than accelerating the projectile toward the target. The web site below provides
an interesting history of gunpowder and other explosives.
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Update: June 2012