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black powder[¦blak ′pau̇d·ər]
an explosive propellant, which is obtained by carefully fragmenting and mixing potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur in the proportions (by percentage weight) of 75:15:10.
Black powder is easily ignited and burns rapidly without air to form gases that are able to perform considerable mechanical work. It is one of the oldest explosives. No accurate date has been established for its invention; it was known in Europe by the 13th century and in China no later than the tenth to 11th centuries. For many centuries it was the only explosive used in military affairs. Because of the relatively small heat of explosion (approximately half that of trinitrotoluene), the poor detonation capability, and other drawbacks it was gradually replaced by other explosives. It is used in small quantities to make time fuses, in the extraction of block rubble, and in articles produced by pyrotechnics.
B. N. KONDRIKOV