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BBC4 programme - saltpetre production

saltpetre potassium nitrate bbc

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#1 fionabbc

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 10:54 AM

Calling out for historic fireworks enthusiasts!

 

My name’s Fiona and I’m working on an exciting new BBC4 television programme, which will look at the science and history behind fireworks, culminating in what is set to be a spectacular recreation of the 1575 display put on for Queen Elizabeth I at Kenilworth Castle. Having spoken to your chairman Phill, he suggested I post on here to see if anyone might be able to help me!

 

As part of the programme, we’re trying to recreate fireworks in the way they were made in the 16th century as accurately as possible. A huge part of this is looking at the production of the raw materials (sulphur, charcoal and saltpetre.) Specifically one key challenge we’re keen to feature is the production of sufficient saltpetre/potassium nitrate using a nitre bed. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of time to make our own, so are looking to find out if there is anyone out there with an existing nitre bed we could possibly film with?

 

Or, I hear some claims that you can fast track the process using existing vegetable and peat compost combined with urine – if anyone has any experience or can shed some light on this, I’d be keen to hear from you.

 

Any advice or recommendations much appreciated, with no obligation to be involved. Please do get in touch on Fiona.turnock@stv.tv or 0203 931 0476 and I can give you more information about the programme.

 

Many thanks,

Fiona

 

 

Fiona Turnock | Assistant Producer | Tel: 0203 931 0476
email: fiona.turnock@stv.tv | website: 
www.stv.tv
STV | 9 Savoy Street  | London | WC2E 7EG |



#2 samboradford

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Posted 20 June 2017 - 09:40 PM

Hi Fiona,

 

you may find this of some interest,  there are 2 parts to it :

 

 

Sam



#3 fionabbc

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 03:00 PM

Thanks for the youtube link recommendation. Unoftrunately we can't get all the way to America, but if you hear of anyone similar to Cody based in Europe please do let me know!



#4 samboradford

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 07:47 PM

No, but if there was one person I'd be talking to it would be him. You could ask him what the fastest way to start your bed is.  You could also ask him if a starter culture such as an aquarium starter culture would skip several months of waiting.  E.g. this : 

 

http://www.pro-shrim...BCABEgIjavD_BwE

 

An aquarium is basically the same process, the oxidation of ammonium ions to nitrate.  If you could find a source of used "fresh" ( "fresh" = not saline ) aquarium water from a large aquarium from a water change and allow it to concentrate down then that basically is your nitre bed.  Add Potash ( Potassium Carbonate ) and the nitrate ions will combine with the potassium ions to form potassium nitrate.

 

A hydroponics system would also yield you the same thing.  Take the substrate from it, put it in a bed and leave for a week or two and I would have thought you'd have it.  I happen to Know Cody is doing exactly that - making a hydroponics system so again he'd be able to answer that question also.

 

Of course, he may also know of someone in Europe who has done something similar ?


Edited by samboradford, 22 June 2017 - 07:50 PM.


#5 fionabbc

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Posted 26 June 2017 - 05:30 PM

That's fantastic, thank you for all that advice! I'll follow up with Cody and see what might be possible in our timeframe.



#6 samboradford

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Posted 26 June 2017 - 08:05 PM

Fiona,

 

I'll drop you a quick email, I might be able to help you in other ways too,

Sam.



#7 icarus

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 11:15 PM

nitrate pure enough to make a low-quality black powder can be extracted from the bags of chicken manure sold in some gardening shops - using boiling water and a cloth filter. Bat guano was another source of nitrates but as the bat is a protected species in the uk bat poo is not readily available. Many old manuscripts refer to nitrogen rich soils from stables and even graveyards being collected. .The dirty grey extracted salt contains many impurities  but there is enough oxidiser present  at the end of the manufacturing process we couldnt face starting charcoal production so we mixed in a small amount of sugar and flared it off as  a sizzling smoky yellow flare. .The keener experimenters having heated some strongly in a  glass tube before inserting a smouldering taper that re-ignited confirming oxygen was evolved from our crude mix  of salts. I can check that nitrate extraction from the bag of chicken manure we have is viable if you wish as my wife is away on holiday  so the kitchen lab is available for experimentation (as there is already a part stripped motor cycle engine on the kitchen table .so my son cant tell tales) ..Checking of the production of saltpetre by copious boiling down of urine though was tried a few years ago on a gas barbecue at the bottom of the garden . This project was abandoned after 2 hours due to multiple requests from unhappy neighbours .There were still a few inches of liquor in the drum but having stood near it i had no wish to continue at that time.

Steve


protodezine@gmail.com

#8 PeteyPyro

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 12:56 PM

Many of those natural sources are sodium or calcium nitrate, and require their leechate to be run into potassium rich wood ashes, for a double displacement reaction to create the potassium nitrate.





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