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Guncotton Manufacture

Guncotton Manufacture

C030/8426

Rights Managed

50.0 MB (8.4 MB compressed)

3591 x 4870 pixels

30.5 x 41.1 cm ⏐ 12.0 x 16.2 in (300dpi)

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Credit

SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY 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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