Guncotton Manufacture

Guncotton Manufacture

C030/8426 Rights Managed

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Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Manufacture of guncotton in 19th century France. Cotton is immersed in a solution of nitric and sulphuric acid to convert the cellulose in the cotton to nitrocellulose (cellulose nitrate), a highly inflammable compound. This eventually became the main ingredient in modern gunpowder, replacing the saltpetre, and was an essential component of the earliest man-made fibres and plastics. After immersion the acids are recovered using a press. The nitrocellulose is then thoroughly washed before drying otherwise it would be dangerously unstable.

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Keywords: 19th c, artwork, celluloid, cellulose nitrate, chemical process, collodion, cotton, dangerous, explosives, factory, france, french, guncotton, gunpowder, hazard, illustration, industrial production, inflammable, nitric acid, nitrocellulose, plastics, saltpetre, sulphuric acid, unstable

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