October 15, 2011

First A&S submission!

An illustration of a beverage cooling system
based on saltpetre (1550).
Good evening readers,

I must report that even as an adult, peer pressure sometimes gets to the best of us.  I was cajoled swayed into writing a report from an informal A&S chemistry experiment I conducted in 2009.  Actually, this experiment was my first real attempt to do something that would qualify as "A&S" with intent.  I like to think I might be one of the few who enjoy putting a real "S" in A&S.

Anyway, I had notes from that experiment and photos of the process on file, so I dug them out this year and completed the project in time to submit it for Kingdom A&S this year.  I wouldn't really have put in the time or energy to do so except that for the first time in my memory, the event is happening in our Barony. 

The experiment uses saltpetre to explore if chilling salts could be used to keep drinks cold at an SCA event or campsite.  I'm selfishly motivated... I like cold drinks on hot days, without a lot of work involved.  The abstract of my paper is below.  I hope it is well recieved by the judges and at least thought of as somewhat interesting.  The nice thing about this experiment is that it's really just a baseline... there are lots of way I can expand on it.

So... I'm giving myself a little high-five tonight for my first effort.  :-)


When dissolved in water, the crystalline powder saltpetre causes a chemical reaction that greatly reduces the temperature of the solution.  When a vessel containing a beverage is immersed in a basin of the cooled water, the effect spreads enough to chill the beverage.  This discovery was used in ancient Asia, and was adopted in Europe by the sixteenth century.  In my experiment, I wished to revive this technique and discover whether it could be applied practically in an SCA camp environment as a period method to chill beverages without the use of ice or modern refrigeration.  The results from the experiment proved that the technique is sound, and it does chill the basin and the beverage well.  However, it is sadly not cost effective or practical to use this method “in the field” unless an inexpensive and accessible source of industrial saltpetre can be found.