Monday, April 25, 2011

Saltpeter Is Not Rock Salt

Rock Salt (Halite)

If word histories made any sense, saltpeter should be rock salt. But instead rock salt is halite.

LL made a nice comment back here:
I thought that you would take this thread in the direction of Potassium Nitrate (saltpetre), accused falsely of causing impotence in men and at the same time allowing gunpowder to go boom.


The Lewis structure of potassium nitrate invokes all that separated charge, which in a way depicts internal potential energy. Nitrates give explosions not just an oxidant (oxygen) but also nitrogen atoms badly wanting to make nitrogen gas. Whence the added oomph first discovered by the Chinese. The same principle is behind nitroglycerin (dynamite), trinitrotoluene (TNT), and nitromethane racing fuel: enhanced combustion.

I find nitrogen oxides intrinsically interesting and I even wrote a bit about them back here already; I mentioned impotence, but it's at the very end of the post. It's an odd coincidence that NO gets one hard while NO3- stands accused of the opposite.


  1. You have the floor sir. What do you know about impotency? ;)