Treating cellulose (as white cottonwool) with concentrated nitric acid (HNO3) and sulfuric acid (H2SO4) mixture, produces a flammable substance-cellulose dinitrate C6H8O3(ONO2)2, which can be further nitrated to trinitrate C6H7O2(ONO2)3 (or guncotton). Smokeless gunpowder contains nitrocellulose.
Nitrocellulose is a highly flammable compound, decomposing to a large volume of gaseous products:
4C6H7O2(ONO2)3(s) + 9O2(g) → 24CO2(g) + 6N2(g) + 14H2O(g)
2C6H7O2(ONO2)3(s) → 9CO(g) + 3CO2(g) + 3N2(g) + 7H2O(g)
1) First, nitrocellulose on paper was ignited. The combustion was fast and there were no marks left on the paper.
2) Secondly, nitrocellulose was placed onto a cup. The combustion was so quick, that it did not even burn the fist.
However, if the nitrated cottonwool were of lower quality, it may burn hands! Don`t try this at home!
3) Thirdly, nitrocellulose was stuffed into a plastic tube that was fixed on a formula car model. It was demonstrated that nitrocellulose explosion gave a good thrust for launch, even better than a real formula 1 car has (in proportional scale).
4) Finally, a nitrocellulose cannon was demonstrated.