How Pee Helped Win the Revolutionary War (Maybe…) – July 4th Special Episode

published on July 17, 2020

Soulja your assignment is to pee right here we'll give it a few months and hopefully some other gunpowder will show up in the meantime when the American Revolutionary War started in 1775 things got a little weird as the rebel colonists supply of gunpowder began

Running low see the main chemical compound in gunpowder potassium nitrate is not that common out in nature in the United States and because they couldn't order it off Amazon the soldiers said hey let's make it ourselves so they mix

To pee with soil ash leaves and six strange gross but actually kind of smart with the help of bacteria ammonia from pee reacts with oxygen to form nitrates that bond with potassium ions and the ash and soil and there you have it

Potassium nitrate potassium nitrate is so crucial because it makes up 75% of gunpowder the rest is 15% charcoal and 10% sulfur will now refer to this mixture by its more specific name black powder when you ignite black powder it

Starts a combustion reaction this kind of reaction requires two things fuel source and an oxidizing agent in this case the fuel source is charcoal which is a bunch of carbon atoms all strongly bonded to each other

Potassium nitrate supplies the oxidizing agent oxygen when charcoal heats up its carbon carbon bonds are broken and new bonds are formed releasing some energy this energy raises the temperature of the potassium nitrate and it splits

Apart releasing oxygen which keeps the reaction going until all the charcoal is used up all this happens in a few thousandths of a second potassium nitrate removes the need for atmospheric oxygen so black powder can ignite in a

Closed oxygen depleted space like the barrel of a gun this is why you can't smother fireworks to put them out but you can smother a campfire a campfire needs external oxygen fireworks have it built-in so if you were looking for

Something to burn you can actually just stop at charcoal and potassium nitrate but it's the sulfur that makes black-powder such a powerful explosive it heats up really quickly and it's ready to accept the oxygen from the

Potassium nitrate this creates sulfur dioxide which acts as another fuel source ultimately making the combustion of black powder go much faster the gas is released when black powder combusts take up way more

Space than the solids that they came from pressure builds and before you know it there's an explosion when black powder is trapped in a totally sealed off space you've got a bomb when it's trapped in a space with just a small

Hole that's a rocket throw it in a mini cannon with a bullet and you've got a gun which brings us back to the American Revolutionary War and that delightful peace soil and ash slurry unfortunately for colonial troops that

Stuff took months to marinate and still didn't help them make enough gunpowder to win a war so they relied heavily on help from the French and a raid of Bermudas black powder supply a secret mission orchestrated by co-conspirators

Bermudian merchant and militia officer Henry Tucker and founding father Ben Franklin by the way that whole mixing pian soil to make potassium nitrate thing that didn't totally disappear after the American Revolution there are

Accounts of Confederate troops collecting urine from the bedpans of townspeople to overcome a gunpowder shortage in the South even though black powder was essential for American troops to win the war that doesn't mean it was

Ideal the crazy plumes of smoke it released made it impossible to see the battlefield and corroded soldiers guns so when something better came along people were like yes please give me that and that thing was smokeless powder

Smokeless powder is a general term that covers a combination of a bunch of different chemicals but basically they're a class of crazy powerful explosives their components able to break down and explode faster than the

Speed of sound although smokeless powder isn't totally smoke free it produces almost no smoke compared to black powder that's because smokeless powder reactions release mostly gases whereas

More than half of the products of black powders are solids including gun corroding battlefield clouding potassium sulfide although black powder is still used for things like fireworks specific types of mining and Civil War

Reenactments there's only one black powder factory that exists today in the United States all the others have sort of exploded or closed down due to safety concerns smokeless powders were also super

Dangerous in their early days for example nitroglycerin see these three groups attached to the carbon backbone these oxygens act as oxidizers which means that nitroglycerin if you mishandle it can explode on its

Own it's not like black powder which needs a separate compound potassium nitrate to supply the oxidizer métro glycerin was too dangerous to use on its own so researchers worked to find compounds that would stabilize it one of

Those researchers Alfred Nobel yes the Nobel Prize Nobel did so in the mid 1800s which led to the creation of dynamite smokeless powder is now not only less smoky and more powerful than black powder it's also easier to

Manufacture without worrying about you know your factory exploding have you ever been to a Revolutionary War or Civil War Reenactment I certainly have not but I want to know how smokey was it let us know in the comments and we'll

See you next week surely there's got to be one of you out there who's been yes yeah you you sir sir please comment thank you you

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