Chapter 287 Preparations for the soap factory
Western Territory, Border Town.
The amount of washing stones purchased from Silver City filled four ships, and had taken several days to unload.
Now that there were enough raw materials, the soap mass production plan was officially placed on the agenda.
The necessary buildings, like the factory and warehouse, had already been set up long ago — the soap factory was located beside the industrial park, next to steam engine factory No. 2, built in exactly the same style as the former. Since the roof, supporting beams, and planks for the walls were all made out of wood, and it had the same measurements as before, the task of wood cutting and transportation was placed in the hands of the witches, and the whole construction period ended up being very short.
Manufacturing soap needed a series of chemical reaction, washing stones, which was a natural soda, could be used for this. The other raw materials required were also very common, in addition to soda ash, he also needed an enormous amount of milk of lime and fat. After soaking the milk of lime, or to be more precise, the lime inside the water, it would settle down at the bottom of the cloudy water inside the receptacle. By mixing it with sodium carbonate, it will react and produce caustic soda, and by adding fat in turn, it will react to produce high-level fatty acid and glycerol. While the former product was the soap, the latter was a critical raw material for explosives.
Prior to manufacturing perfumed soap, Roland had already tested this entire chemical reaction process in the castle backyard. The basic theory was the same, but if he wanted to expand from the small amount of trial production to start mass production, he still needed to develop a consistent industrial production process and norms. But what was even more important to him were the professional chemists needed to guide the manufacturing process.
This was the reason, he had called the chief alchemist into his office.
“Your Highness, you previously asked me to develop a sulfuric acid mass-production system, I believe that I finally found a feasible plan.” Kyle Sichi immediately shouted after he had opened the door. “However, it will demand we use a large amount of lead. We will also need a blacksmith who can to make a vessel from the lead. I heard that some of your witches could accurately cut metal, one of them made those lumps of steel which make those rumbling and banging noises; is it possible that I…”
“Of course, just give me a report with the shape and size of the vessel you require, and I will instruct the Witch Alliance to make it.” Roland impatiently waves with his hand, indicating that he should take a seat, “The reason I called you over today, wasn’t to question you about the acid production system. Instead, I want to discuss another task with you.”
“Your Highness, these days I’m really busy, I don’t have the time to do any other work,” Kyle said, shaking his head repeatedly, “The acid mass-production system is a tough challenge. I have to finish at all costs.” He paused and then added, “and it is a daunting challenge. My disciples are also out of the question; all of them are aiding me in preparing this task, none of them can leave.”
“Rest assured, you won’t have to lose any time about it,” Roland said comfortably, he took a mouthful of tea before he continued, “It isn’t necessary that you transfer any of your beloved disciples to take over, simply sending over a few apprentices should be good enough.”
“What will be their task?”
“To make soap. More precisely, to make a cheap version of the perfumed soap which you can buy at the convention market. Which with the exception of its scent, provides the same function as the perfumed soap and can be used for bathing, washing clothes, as well as cleaning tableware.”
“Are you speaking about the saponification reaction mentioned in ‘Elementary Chemistry’?” Kyle asked while stroking his beard, “The one that uses the reaction of caustic soda and fat to produce alcohol and salt?”
I have to say, hearing standard chemistry terms come out of the mouth of an alchemist is a very strange feeling, especially since I am the one to come up with them, Roland thought while forcing himself to restrain his smile. Instead, he spoke with a deathly earnest expression, “That’s right, the saponification reaction, as has been written down within the ancient book. It was because of this foundation that I was able to produce perfumed soap.”
“In that case, what do you need me to do? If it is not very important, I suggest we shift the production to a later date. After all, even if your subjects are unable to take a shower for several days it won’t cause any problems, it should be good enough if they just soak their clothes, meal plates, and other such things directly in the river.”
“It’s crucial,” the Prince said slowly, stressing each word. “To say it more clearly, making soap is unimportant. However, it is the byproduct of the production process that I desperately need right now.”
“Do you mean the… alcohol?” Kyle couldn’t believe what he had heard.
“That’s right, exactly the alcohol, you may also call it glycerol.” Roland stated, “It is a very valuable raw material, whose importance is not inferior to the two acids.”
“Okay,” Kyle shrugged and said, “However, as I already have stated it, I don’t have the time to do it myself.”
Roland exhaled slightly; once more starting to learn how tiring it was to deal with the chief alchemist, “As long as you pick out several talented apprentices and demonstrate the process one time in front of them, it will already be enough. I will recruit some of my subjects to carry out the production process, however, in the end, none of them even understands a word about chemistry, so there have to be some people to check on every segment.
After pausing for a moment, the Prince continued to say, “You can also treat it as a never before practiced chemical test – if placed in the alchemic workshop, this process may mean the discovery of some new alchemic formulas, enough to earn an apprentice the title of an alchemist.”
Those lasts few words were probably what persuaded Kyle in the end, “If you say it like this, I’ll need an entire afternoon to teach the apprentice what they require.”
“Excellent,” Roland smiled. “You should also know that the most important thing about the process is ensuring that enough caustic soda is produced.” He wrote down the reaction formula on a piece of paper.
Before the invention of the syntactic alkali production, natural soda was the most important alkali raw material. The latter was mainly composed of sodium bicarbonate, which when heated would break down into sodium carbonate, carbon dioxide, and water. Because it was accessible in great amount and also quite simple to process, it was still in use even in modern times. “By decomposing the washing stones with heat, followed by dissolving them in water and afterward filtering the water, you can obtain a relatively pure solution of sodium carbonate solution.
“Followed by heating it together with milk of lime, you can get a sodium hydroxide solution, for which you should easily be able to come up with a purifying method for yourself,” Roland explained. ” To clarify, first distil, then mix, repeating these steps until the concentration is high enough. Then after it has cooled down, the concentrated solution will have formed a huge amount of crystals.”
These were the details written in the “Elementary Chemistry”. Since those two alkalis had several nicknames (such as caustic soda, lye, soda ash, sodium hyposulfite, sodium thiosulfate, soda crystals, etc.), it was incredibly easy to get them mixed up; which made it an important subject of a knowledge test. The reason why he could still clearly remember it to this day was because he was initially required to know the textbook’s related content by heart.
“I understand,” the chief alchemist said, looking over the equation of the chemical reaction from start to finish. “But Your Highness, what’s to be done in regards with the fat?”
“I will arrange people who will send it to you.” Animal fat was an expensive resource during this era, however, during the previous seed collecting mission, his personal guard had brought back the seeds for olive trees from Fallen Dragon Ridge, which now gave Border Town a reliable source for vegetable oil. Even though there was currently only a small plantation at the castle backyard, but since Leaves had the ability to hasten ripening, harvesting a pile of fruits each day was no problem at all.
The extraction of olive oil was also very simple. When the fruit became ripe, they simply used physical strength to squeeze the oil out and afterward sieved it so as to filter out the flesh and seeds.
Finally, after a brief description of the requirements and necessary preparation for the soap and glycerol production, Roland permitted Kyle Sichi to leave the office.
From now on, when the soap factory started its production, Roland would obtain a steady stream of glycerol.
And with glycerin, he had finally made a big step towards getting real smoke-free gunpowder and powerful explosives.
TN: Sodium carbonate