When Military Might Relied on Urine

A look at the chemistry behind the historical production of saltpeter from urine

17th century ancient flintlock musket with powder flask and led bullets on wooden deck.
17th century ancient flintlock musket with powder flask and led bullets on wooden deck.

Gunpowder has come to dominate battlefields since the 15th century (1400 to 1500). It is an explosive mixture of potassium nitrate (KNO₃), charcoal (C) and sulfur (S).

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