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The History of Explosives

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As everyone knows, explosives explode; they require activation energy which sets off the explosion. However, many do not know that explosives are categorized into propellants and high explosives. Propellants burn in a rapid but constant fashion and the projectile is under a steady high pressure, while high explosives change in an irregular pattern and produces a shock that is violent and disruptive (Crystal 428). Ever since the first use of gunpowder, explosives have changed from being simple mixtures of elements that could be ignited into something that had become highly destructive, dangerous, and complex. As these different explosives have developed, they have also gathered a variety of uses corresponding to their separate traits.
Explosives date back to tenth-century China where the first uses of this “black powder” are recorded. The Chinese first discovered gunpowder, a mix of sulfur, charcoal and saltpeter (Crystal 428). Initially, they only used this powder in smoke signals and firecrackers. However, possibly through trade, somehow the secret spread to the Arabs and English. In 1249, the monk Roger Bacon recorded the recipe for making this explosive as stated by Brown in his book A Most Damnable Invention. By 1304, the Arabs began to use the gunpowder in weapons by using it to propel stone projectiles or arrows in bamboo tubes reinforced with iron (“Short History”). This technology soon spread and gunpowder became widely used in firearms throughout Eurasia, starting from small guns and flamethrowers and then progressing into mines and mobile cannons. According to Brown, this explosive black powder was the main explosive used for military purposes up until late in the 19th century. During this time, gunpowder was also value...

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