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This programme is about the history of the organic chemical explosives industry from Nobel's early work in the 1870s to the development of the military explosives picric acid and TNT in the earl...y part of the 20th century. The speaker in the programme is Dr Colin Russell of the O.U. The film opens at Waltham Abbey, and explosives factory which dates back to the early days of gunpowder, but the major part of the programme is filmed on location at Ardeer where Nobel developed the British organic olaeiaical explosives industry. Nobel as well as being an astute businessman made three fundamental contributions; firstly he invented dynamite, secondly the detonator and thirdly gelegnite. These three inventions made Nobel the father of the explosives industry and the factory at Ardeer now Nobel's Explosives Company (ICI) is still 1 one of the most important factories in Britain. The preparation of nitroglycerine and picric acid are demonstrated, in the laboratory -and the commercial production of nitroglycerine and gelegnite are shown. The modern methods are compared with early work in the same factory. The relationships between the explosives industry and the chemical industry as a whole are discussed together with the social need for explosives in peace and war. The association of the dyestuffs industry and the manufacture of picric acid (a military explosive) is particularly mentioned. A now abandoned wartime TNT plant is visited and the increasing use of TNT in the early part of this century is discussed in relation to the development of the petrochemicals industry.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: AST281, Science and the rise of technology since 1800
Item code: AST281; 08
First transmission date: 20-06-1973
Published: 1973
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:19
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Producer: Jim Stevenson
Contributor: Colin Russell
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Explosives; Gelignite; Gunpowder; Nitroglycerine; Sulphuric acid; TNT
Footage description: Shot of fuse being pushed into stick of gelgnite. Colin Russell from Waltham Abbey introduces the programme. Stills of workers being searched at Waltham Abbey (now ERDE) before beginning work. Colin Russell describes the manufacture of gunpowder and explains the purpose of some pieces of equipment in the gunpowder manufacturing process still preserved at ERDE. Colin Russell outlines very briefly the history of gunpowder and also the development of nitro-glycerine. Shot of the gelegnite fused in sequence 1 being exploded. Laboratory demonstration of the manufacture of nitro-glycerine, Colin Russell explaining. Colin Russell explains the chemical structure of nitro-glycerine. He also explains what happens chemically in a nitro-glycerine explosion. Colin Russell does the same for gunpowder, and explains why nitro-glycerine is more powerful. An uncompressed gunpowder explosion is shown. Colin Russell in a modern nitration plant explains the nitration process. Colin Russell outlines the history of nitrcellulose (gun cotton) and describes its manufacture. Stills of manufacture are shown. Colin Russell outlines the danger of explosive manufacture in the 19th and early 20th century. Engravings of the disastrous explosions. Colin Russell on the site of Nobel's works at Ardear in Scotland outlines the structure of the plant and describes Nobel's life there. Quotation from Nobel's description of the spot. Photographs of the site at the turn of the century are shown. Portrait of Nobel. Colin Russell reviews the disadvantages of nitro-glycerine in its pure state, Demonstration of its volatility. The invention of dynamite is described. Shots of blending machinery in operation. The mixing of solid nitro-glycerine to produce gelignite is shown. Demonstration of the explosion of a detonator. Colin Russell outlines the importance of explosives to the growth of the nineteenth century industrial and trading states. Photograph of Panama Canal construction and unidentified modern film of multiple quarry explosion. Colin Russell outlines the development of Lyddite Its manufacture is explained and its relationship to dyestuff manufacture pointed out. Colin Russell compares the dyestuff industries of Britain and Germany. Film of German howitzers being fired. Shots of World War I shells and of howitzers firing. Colin Russell describes the development of T.N.T. The Chemical structures of Lyddite and of T.N.T are shown. Shot of mining operations in World War I and of explosion. Colin Russell on the site of a T.N.T. manufacturing plant explains the manufacturing process. Colin Russell continues his description of the T.N.T manufacturing process inside the disused nitration plant. The raw materials required for the manufacture of T.N.T are discussed. Colin Russell links the production of T.N.T to the development of the contact process of sulphuric acid manufacture. Colin Russell sums up the programme. He describes some of the alternative uses to which these compounds are now put. Shots of continuing gunpowder manufacture. Nobel's words are quoted at the end of the programme. The credits are shown against a background of a powder mill in operation.
Master spool number: 6HT/71128
Production number: 00525_3035
Videofinder number: 3368
Available to public: no