nitrocellulose

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 16, 2022

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Nitrocellulose (also: cellulose nitrate, flash paper, flash cotton, guncotton, flash string) is a highly flammable compound formed by nitrating cellulose through exposure to nitric acid or another powerful nitrating agent. When used as a propellant or low-order explosive, it was originally known as guncotton. If the cellulose is not fully nitrated, then it has found uses as a plastic film and in inks and wood coatings. Nitrocellulose plasticized by camphor was used by Kodak, and other suppliers, from the late 1880s as a film base in photography, X-ray films, and motion picture films, and was known as ‘nitrate film’. After numerous fires caused by unstable nitrate films, safety film started to be used from the 1930s in the case of X-ray stock and from 1948 for motion picture film.

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