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The oldest known explosive, a mixture of sulphur, charcoal and saltpetre (nitre, potassium nitrate). Invented in China in the 9th-c, the Chinese had guns by 900, rockets and grenades by 1042, and cannon by 1259. gunpowder was first used in Europe in 1325. gunpowder mixtures have a range of properties, depending on formulation and granulation. It was the principal military explosive until late in the 19th-c, and is still valuable in primers, fuses, and pyrotechnics.