Gunpowder is comprised of 75% potassium nitrate (saltpeter), 15% charcoal and 10% sulfur.
You can make explosives using three basic ingredients:
- Sulphur (sulphur is used in the production of fertilisers)
- Charcoal (like what you use in your barbeque)
What is saltpeter?
Saltpeter, also known as nitrate of potash or even ‘Chinese snow’, is the natural form of potassium nitrate (KNO3).
Saltpeter can be made from rotted down green or animal manure that is doused regularly with urine to encourage the putrefaction process.
Nitrogen is excreted in the urine as urea (CO(NH2)2). Bacteria convert, the nitrogen present in urea, into new products such as ammonia (NH3), ammonium ions (NH4+) and nitrate ions (NO3-).
Using urine in the production of explosives is a widely used method throughout history and even during the U.S. Civil War they mixed ashes with straw and urine to make the Saltpeter for explosives.
In the cult film Fight Club Tyler describes how to make nitroglycerine using human fat. Nitroglycerine is the active compound in dynamite.
In the book that the film was based on Tyler says that in an ice-bath you can mix one part nitric-acid and three parts sulphuric acid and then add glycerine (from the human fat found in liposuction waste bins) to make nitroglycerin.
Nitroglycerine can also be used to treat angina
Nitric oxide widens the blood vessels and can relieve pressure on the heart. Nitroglycerin pills are can prevent chest pain (angina) for those that have coronary artery disease.
Alfred Nobel didn’t invent nitroglycerine as an explosive, that was discovered by Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero in 1847. It was only twenty years, many accidental explosions and numerous deaths later that Nobel discovered a way to make it safe enough for practical use.
He mixed nitroglycerine with a sort of sand called Keiselguhr and invented a safer way of igniting it. He was going to call it “Nobel’s Safety Powder” but eventually settled on “Dynamite” after the greek word ‘dýnamis’ meaning ‘power.’
Disclaimer: This blog does not recommend that you try and make your own explosives, it is illegal and dangerous!
What else can urine be used for?
So you saw the title of this article and already prepared your pee to make explosives, but now you have seen my disclaimer? Well have no fear, urine can be used for many other things…
Tanning and laundry in Roman times
In Roman times urine was used in the treatment and production of clothes. Urine was so valuable that it was collected from the sewage systems. The government even had a special urine tax.
Textiles in Victorian Yorkshire
Barrels of urine were shipped from all over the country to Yorkshire for use in the fabrication of textiles. Queen Elizabeth I found the smell so revolting that she forbade the process within 5 miles of her houses.
Fertility treatment or Menopausal drugs
The urine of a pregnant woman can contain hormones that are useful for fertility problems or for menopausal women. Although nowadays the urine of a pregnant horse is sometimes used instead e.g. Premarin (PREgnant MAre uRINe).
Or just pee in your compost…
Urine is rich in nitrogen which helps plants produce amino acids and the proteins necessary to grow. Nepalese farmers have been using urine in their fertilisers for centuries.
An experiment conducted by University researchers in Nepal showed that those pepper plants that were grown with a mixture of compost and urine grew the tallest and had the most peppers!