Chapter 331 The Key to “Art”
‘It feels as if the Church just suddenly has appeared from out of nowhere.’
This sentence continued echoing through Roland’s mind as he was returning to his office.
He closed his eyes and carefully looked through the memories of the 4th Prince, but he still couldn’t find any relevant information about this. His understanding of the Church was the same as that of any other ordinary nobleman. During his time at the palace the 4th Prince never bothered spending that much effort in learning anything useful, so his knowledge concerning the occult was practically a full-on blank space. But, if what Tilly had said was true, then the Church’s propaganda strategy was also rather strange.
Taking his former world of religious myths, for example, since the beginning of the world there have always been gods and the routine everyone agreed on was that the gods were the ones who created the world. Stories such as the creation in seven days, karma, reincarnation, and so on... those were legends used to describe the power of the Gods and were a standard part of every religion.
Compared to them, the Church of this world was quite... lacking.
But Roland didn’t have any more clues to consider, so he shook his head and decided to put such thoughts behind him.
Maybe their questions would be answered when they went to explore the ruins within the Concealing Forest.
He went to the window and looked towards the garden where a huge coating was laid out on the ground – in the middle of the vast expanse of white snow its bluish green appearance seemed particularly eye-catching.
Nowadays Soraya was creating a bigger air sac, the new hot air balloon’s volume would become much larger and would thus be able to transport a larger crowd of people. This was preparation in case they were unable to free the trapped woman when going to the ruins in the case that Anna wasn’t able to cut-down the whole “ice-coffin” and bring the woman and some of the transparent stones back to Border Town.
They would depart in in two days.
The people that would be going along had already been decided. Tilly, Sylvie, Shavi, Ashes and Andrea would be from the Sleeping Island witches while the Witch Alliance would send Anna, Wendy, Nightingale, Nana, Lightning, and Maggie. This line-up could be said to be unprecedentedly powerful. Its attack, defense, and battlefield awareness were of the highest level, so as long as there was no God’s Stone of Retaliation being used, the Devils wouldn’t even have a chance of approaching them.
"Your Royal Highness, Chief Alchemist Sir Kyle Sichi wishes to see you," one of his personal guards said from the door.
"Let him in."
Kyle wasn’t alone, this time he had come together with his colleague Chavez, "Your Royal Highness, the outline for your requested large-scale production of nitric acid has been completed."
"Really?" Roland stared blankly but soon after a burst of happiness flooded his heart. This was probably the best piece of news he had heard within these past few days. He stood up in excitement and personally poured a cup of tea for the two chemists as he asked, "Tell me, how did you manage it?”
"The credit for this belong to Chavez," he said laughingly, "so I will let him explain it."
"Your honorable Highness," the young Chavez bowed, seeming somewhat reserved as soon as he opened his mouth. "Your alchemical... no, the chemical reaction used in the laboratory to produce nitric acid is produced by distilling saltpeter to obtain diluted nitric acid and then it's purified with concentrated sulfuric acid. I tried to put the two together by placing the saltpeter directly into the concentrated sulfuric acid for shared heating. By doing so I successfully obtained nitric acid, even more, its purity was very high, so much so that it was possible to observe the phenomenon of fuming which was spoken of within “Elementary Chemistry”.
"Shared heating? But combining those two isn’t the same," Roland said baffled, "The temperature used for dry distillation is much higher than the temperature that is used for shared heating, the gas produced by the dry distillation should be nitrogen oxide. Only by bubbling it through water it would become diluted nitric acid. Concentrated sulfuric acid is only used for purification because of its high boiling point and its strong water absorption which in turn reduces the moisture content in the nitric acid, this doesn’t involve any sort of chemical reactions.”
"I myself also don’t quite understand why it happened, but Mr. Sichi, thinking that my discovery was merely a coincidence, then went and did a couple of experiments."
"Coincidence?" Roland stared at the Chief Alchemist.
"Indeed," Kyle said with certainty, "The two are not the same, but they still produced the same effect. Following the chemical formula, I guess that there is a component within the saltpeter that reacts with the sulfuric acid but evaporates in the heat, leaving only nitric acid behind. According to the formula, it looks like some kind of... well, nitrate.”
It suddenly occurred to Roland that the chemistry textbook did mention that before synthetic ammonia was invented, people had used nitric acid or potassium nitrate to react with concentrated sulfuric acid to produce nitric acid, this was also the oldest manufacture method known. Because the main ingredient of saltpeter were two different kinds of nitrate, it was, easy to obtain. Furthermore, the extraction was also relatively easy. So as long as the temperature could be controlled, they would have a steady stream of evaporated nitric acid to collect.
Of course, because this method consumed a large amount of sulfuric acid, and at the same time easily led to the corrosion of the equipment, it was later replaced by more advanced technology.
But to Roland, these two points weren’t much of a problem. After all, the fertilizer and pesticide industry hasn’t been established yet, so the produced sulfuric acid could only be used for the purification of nitric acid. While Soraya’s coatings could easily solve the problem brought from the strongly corrosive nitric acid steam.
"Well done," Roland said while happily patting Chavez’s shoulder, “You were unexpectedly able to come up with such a method by chance.”
"You’re unaware of it, but his outstanding luck has already revealed itself within Redwater City’s Alchemic Workshop," Kyle Sichi said as he raised an eyebrow. "Before learning chemistry, the exploration of alchemy was something which relied on luck. Within his early twenties, this kid had already discovered the double acid preparation method and had become the youngest alchemist within the workshop, that was enough to turn the eyes of the other thirty to forty years old apprentices red with envy. You can imagine how most of them will be stuck as apprentices for the rest of their lives.”
"Anyway, this is good news for the town," Roland praised. "First, you should try to make a batch of equipment to examine it further, I will let a witch cooperate with you. If feasible, we will then expand the scale of production.”
"As you will."
"Alright, I still have another task to give you," Roland said, putting away his joyful expression and continuing in a solemn tone, "Now that we will have a reliable source of nitric acid, I will need you to produce something that is very dangerous – nitroglycerin.”
"How dangerous is it?" Kyle asked.
"It is actually very simple to use the raw materials, namely, letting concentrated nitric acid react with glycerol, supplemented with concentrated sulfuric acid to act as a catalysator. However, during the reaction process you must strictly control the temperature and the ventilation. Since the nitrification produces a lot of heat, it would also be best to put the container into iced water for the experiment. Bear in mind that alteration between hot and cold, vibrations, impacts, or friction might lead to it exploding.” Roland didn’t know how reliable his amateur knowledge would be in the end, but the ingredients were undoubtedly correct, so even if there was likely to be some danger, it was still something he had to try. "During the experiment, it will be alright to merely use a small amount of ingredients, so that in case a mishap occurs Lady Nana should still be able to heal you.”
"This..." Chavez opened his mouth to answer, but even before he could say another word, Kyle had already given his promise, "I understand, and its power is something comparable to snow powder?"
"It’s entirely different.”
"It looks like an interesting experiment." The Chief Alchemist said and laughed.
So it’s true that nine out of ten chemists are explosion maniacs... Roland thought.
Nitroglycerin is extremely unstable, Nobel especially added diatomaceous earth to it to make it blunter and this increased its safety. However, while this did, in fact, improve its safety, it also reduced its explosive power. Naturally, Roland wouldn’t be using that classical method. instead, he intended to add nitrocellulose or nitrostarch into the nitroglycerin, both of which could stabilize it while further enhance the explosive effect. The former would make an excellent smoke-free explosive, while the latter would produce a stronger explosion. From their names alone it could already be seen that a lot of nitric acids would be key in the evolution of black powder into gunpowder.
And now he was in the possession of that very key.
PRN: Some science
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