Burning properties of gunpowder

Various types of gunpowder burn differently

Scientific name: Demonstration of the dependence of the burning properties of gunpowder on the size of particles.


The burning properties of gunpowder

by Royal Society Of Chemistry

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Wear lab gloves and eye protection. There is a serious fire risk - a fire extinguisher should be ready. Make sure there is nothing flammable nearby.

Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

2KNO3 + 3C + S → K2S + 3CO2 + N2

Step-by-step instruction

WARNING! This experiment is dangerous! You should NOT perform this at home. ONLY carry out this experiment, if you are a trained chemist, and you understand local safety and legal requirements, which are required to perform such experiments

  1. Take gunpowder (mixture of potassium nitrate and charcoal) and grind it with a ball mill various times. Thus the samples of different particles size gunpowder are obtained.
  2. Put a small amount of the gunpowder samples onto a nonflammable plate.
  3. Ignite each sample with a burner or a match.

Scientific background

The burning properties of gunpowder depend on the size of particles. The smaller size of gunpowder particles the more powerful the reaction, therefore more energy is released in a shorter time.


Published on 18 January 2016

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst