Waterwheel of a Pilon powder mill

Waterwheel of a Pilon powder mill

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Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Depending on the requirements the combustible ingredients of gunpowder, i.e., charcoal, saltpetre and sulphur, need to be reduced to a high-quality powder of a particular particle size. This 19th century French pilon ( 'pestle') powder mill was driven by a waterwheel and had a mechanical system that caused the rise and fall of the two pestles in the mortars full of the mixture to produce the powder. A rate of 55-60 pestle strokes was maintained for several hours. An alternative to the pilon mill was the water cylinder mill.

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Keywords: 19th c, artwork, charcoal, explosives, french, gunpowder, history of science, illustration, mill, mortar, pestle, pilon, powder, saltpetre, sulphur, water cylinder, waterwheel

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