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White Powder - Invented by Paul Marie Eugène Vieille

Paul Marie Eugène Vieille-White Powder
: Paul Marie Eugène Vieille (Know about Paul Marie Eugène Vieille)
: 1884
: France
: Weapons

About Invention

Poudre B was the first practical smokeless gunpowder. It was perfected between 1882 and 1884 at "Laboratoire Central des Poudres et Salpetres" in Paris, France. Originally called "Poudre V", from the name of the inventor, Paul Vieille, it was arbitrarily renamed "Poudre B" to distract German espionage."Poudre B" is made from 68.2% insoluble nitrocellulose, 29.8% soluble nitrocellulose gelatinized with ether and 2% paraffin. "Poudre B" is made up of very small paper-thin flakes that are not white but dark greenish grey in color. "Poudre B" was first used to load the 8mm Lebel cartridges issued in 1886 for the Lebel rifle.

French chemist Paul Vieille had followed the findings of German-Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schonbein, who had created the explosive nitrocellulose or "guncotton" in 1846 by treating cotton fibers with a nitric acid and sulphuric acid mixture. However guncotton, an explosive substance, proved to be too fast burning at the time for direct use in firearms and artillery ammunition. Then Paul Vieille went one step further in 1882-84 and, after many trials and errors, succeeded in transforming guncotton into a colloidal substance by gelatinizing it in an alcohol-ether mixture following which he stabilized it with amyl alcohol. He then used roller presses to transform this gelatinized colloidal substance into extremely thin sheets which, after drying, were cut up into small flakes. This single-base smokeless powder was originally named "Poudre V" after the inventor's name. That denomination was later changed arbitrarily to "Poudre B" in order to distract German espionage. The original "Poudre B" of 1884 was almost immediately replaced by improved "Poudre BF(NT)" in 1888. In 1896 "Poudre BF(NT)" was replaced by "Poudre BF(AM)" which was followed by "Poudre BN3F" in 1901. The latter was stabilized with the antioxidant diphenylamine instead of amyl alcohol and it gave safe and regular performance as the standard French gunpowder used during World War I (1914–1918). It was followed during the 1920s by "Poudre BN3F(Ae)" and later by "Poudre BPF1", which remained in service until the 1960s.


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