Dynamite and Inventor Alfred Nobel
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Dynamite and Inventor Alfred Nobel

Facts and information about dynamite inventor Alfred Bernhard Nobel, his dynamite invention, his legacy Nobel prizes, and his sell invention idea.

Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896), Swedish inventor, chemist, engineer and industrialist, invented dynamite in 1866. He founded the Nobel Prizes. Nobel's genius came from his tireless effort and his ability to perfect the use of his inventions for predictable, practical applications worldwide.

In 1866, he received a patent for dynamite in Great Britain. In the United States, he patented a more powerful form of blasting gelatin. In 1888, he produced one of the first nitroglycerin smokeless powers, called ballistite. He also invented gelignite, made from nitroglycerin but included nitrocellulose and sodium nitrate, which was even more powerful but safer to store.

Pre-Dynamite Invention Background

The story of dynamite starts in 1846 with Ascanio Sobrero, an Italian chemist. He was the first person known to treat glycerol with nitric and sulphuric acid to produce the primary ingredient in dynamite: nitroglycerin.

The problem was that by adding nitric and sulphuric acid, heat was created and the mixture became unstable, to the point of exploding. It took some time before inventors realized the right mixture needed to be cooled while being mixed.

Alfred Nobel studied the complex dynamite beginnings and was the first person to manufacture nitroglycerin on the industrial scale. He also studied the long and complex history of dynamite.

The first chemical explosive, black powder, was invented in China in 900 A.D. It was originally used for military purposes, and was made from charcoal, sulfur, and potassium Nitrate. Later on, Europe used it in mining industry. Before fuses made of grass (or vines) were used to detonate the black powder, intense heat was used.

Use of the Blasting Cap in Exploding Dynamite Rods

One of Nobel’s most important discoveries was the result of mixing the stable nitroglycerin with an oily fluid and silica. The whole mixture could be turned into paste, kneaded like dough, and shaped into rods.

The problem that remained was how to explode the rods of dynamite. Nobel developed the “blasting cap” (a wooded pug filled with gunpowder that could be detonated by lighting a fuse) in 1865, which could be used to detonate dynamite under controlled conditions, that is, predrilled holes in bedrock could be filled with the sticks of dynamite and exploded. The result in exploding and clearing of rock saved hundreds of man hours.

Nitroglycerin in dynamite succeeded black powder as the main explosive. Two important modern developments were “safety fuses” and blasting caps. These elements allowed safe and accurately timed detonations.

In 1875, Nobel further improved his invention. He created a jelly from the dissolution of nitroglycerin, which proved that this material was safer and cheaper to make. As a result, the use of dynamite increased immensely. The blasting cap provided the first safe and dependable method of detonating nitroglycerin, making it much safer to work with - for construction crews, excavators, and builders. It also opened various industrial uses.

Alfred Nobel’s Key Legacy: The Nobel Prize Awards

Since there were many uses for dynamite, and the building of roads and dams were made a great deal faster and easier, Nobel became extremely rich from the dynamite’s worldwide use.

Troubled by potentially violent uses of dynamite, Nobel decided to leave his fortune to reward people who pursue peaceful purposes. When he died, he left 9 million to establish a series of prizes in his name: the Nobel prizes for medicine or physiology, physics, chemistry, literature, economics, and peace.

Related Article:

Life changing inventions: Thomas Alva Edison, Alfred Nobel, Leonardo Da Vinci

Photo Courtesy:  Dynamite Invention Diagram, Wiki Creative Commons

Sources:

Philbin, Tom. 100 Greatest Inventions of All Time. New York: Citadel Press, 2003

Tallack, Peter, Ed. Science Book. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2003

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