Gunpowder, also known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless gunpowder, is the earliest known chemical explosive.It consists of a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate (saltpeter).In the following centuries various gunpowder weapons such as bombs, fire lances, and the gun appeared in China.
The sulfur and charcoal act as fuels while the saltpeter is an oxidizer.
Because of its incendiary properties and the amount of heat and gas volume that it generates, gunpowder has been widely used as a propellant in firearms, rockets, fireworks, and as a blasting powder in quarrying, mining, and road building.
It was also discovered that if the paste was rolled into balls before drying the resulting gunpowder absorbed less water from the air during storage and traveled better.
The balls were then crushed in a mortar by the gunner immediately before use, with the old problem of uneven particle size and packing causing unpredictable results.
This claim has been disputed by historians of science including Lynn Thorndike, John Maxson Stillman and George Sarton and by Bacon's editor Robert Steele, both in terms of authenticity of the work, and with respect to the decryption method.