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Gunpowder, or black powder, low explosive, the only one known in the West from the 13th century until the mid-19th century. It consists of about 75% potassium (or sodium) nitrate, 10% sulfur, and 15% charcoal; it is readily ignited and burns very rapidly. Gunpowder was used in fireworks in 10th-century China, as a propellant for firearms from the 14th century in Europe, and for blasting since the late 17th century. It is now used mainly as an igniter, in fuses and in fireworks.

See also: Explosive.

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