Here in the UK, on 5 November  we light bonfires and let off fireworks to  remember the failed gunpowder plot involving Guy Fawkes and the 12 other conspirators who attempted to assassinate King James I and change the rule of the country. Children say “Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot!”

What if…
According to historical experts, Guy Fawkes hid 36 barrels of gunpowder underneath the parliament buildings. If the plot had succeed  the blast would have been both colossal and uncontrollable, destroying Westminster Hall and Abbey and killing the King, his heir, members of parliament, and many others. With today’s technology however, explosives are better understood; and with Malvern’s particle characterization, the safety of those who work with explosives can be more readily maintained.

Characterizing explosives
Explosives experts believe Guy Fawkes used around 25 times more gunpowder than he needed. Gunpowder contains 3 megajoules per kilogram of energy compared to the 4.6 megajoules per kilogram of energy in TNT. This level of power cannot be argued with and emphasises the need for appropriate, safe explosive content. If problems occur within the material structure of an explosive substance, a major catastrophe could occur. Characterization of particles allows explosives companies to monitor and analyse their products and better understand their manufacturing processes. Image analysis, for example, provides information about particle size, shape and count, whilst also detecting foreign particles and particle structure.

Lives saved!
In some cases a foreign particle in an explosive substance can be a huge problem, causing unpredictable behaviour. Identification of such anomalies could save lives. Particle characterization techniques can be used to help ensure construction and demolition workers have safer explosives to use. Products such as our Morphologi G3 enable detection, identification and quantification of foreign particles. History records that Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot was discovered and averted by a security check ordered by the King following the receipt of a warning letter. Many lives were saved that day as a result and the bonfires and fireworks British residents now enjoy on 5 November are a celebration of that. So, when I’m standing underneath the fireworks display looking at the controlled explosions in the sky they represent a great deal more than simple beauty!