In 1786 Claude Berthollet (1749-1822) passed chlorine gas through hot
potassium hydroxide solution and precipitated potassium chlorate (KClO3)
a stable, yet powerful, oxidizing agent. Berthollet had hoped that KClO3
act as a substitute for KNO3, then in short supply, as a component of gunpowder,
but the KClO3 was unsuitable.
Sugar and KClO3 when ground together form an explosive mixture that will detonate spontaneously, but when mixed as a paste, dried and then exposed to sulphuric acid (H2SO4) the mixture ignites. This paste was used to make a new type of match, briquets oxygènes (oxygen lighter). The chlorate-sugar match head was ignited with sulphuric acid.
In 1810 chlorate matches were sold, with bottles of asbestos wool soaked in H2SO4, but at a price of 10 shillings for 50 matches this proved prohibitively expensive for most people. There was also the risk of carrying sulphuric acid to consider.
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