Science behind Amazing Chemical Reactions with their GIFs

Chemistry has been around for a very long time, yet at times it catches us unawares. It is wisely said that you learn from your experiences and chemistry is a living proof of it. One should be cautious nonetheless and should use protective measures while performing reactions. The article features some physical reactions that are pretty amazing and yet can be quite damaging.

Didymium – A light filter

The combination of the elements Praseodymium and Neodymium leads to the formation of Didymium. Didymium is mainly used in glasses to provide protection against ultraviolet light and the 589 nm wavelength of light produced by hot sodium. Praseodymium and Neodymium both have a significant rate of absorption for light which is quite useful in filtering out the light wavelengths that are too bright or harmful for a naked human eye.

Steel Wool

We have all burned steel wool in our childhood and have always wondered how could it be so? The heating of steel wool results in an increased mass due to the combination of burning iron with oxygen. Very fine steel wool is sometimes carried for use as tinder in emergency situations, as it burns even when wet and can be ignited by fire, a spark, or by connecting a battery.

Ignition of Aluminium Powder

Aluminium powder is composed of metal powder fuel and metal oxide. On exposure to heat, this aluminium powder undergoes exothermic oxidation reduction reaction which results in globules of molten iron in the form of sparks flying through the air. Most varieties of Aluminium powder are not explosive but they can still create high temperature bursts in a small area. The form of action is quite similar to that of other fuel-oxidizing mixtures such as black powder.

Cannon Fire Reaction

When potassium manganite powder is sprinkled on a burning mixture of hydrogen peroxide solution and ethanol, it produces a series of loud bangs. Though quite harmless, the exothermic reaction produces bangs due to the oxygen that evolves which increases the rate of burning. The reaction is quite noisy and forms flames that build up rhythmically. As you can see, the experiment can be really messy so it is advisable to use heat resistant mats with some non-flammable, washable material to help in clearing up afterwards.

Tin Pest

Ever heard about Tin pests? Neither had I until recently. Tin has the property of transforming from β-form white tin to α-form grey tin at 13.2 degree Celsius or below. The transformation process requires high activation energy but very low temperatures and the presence of germanium can aid in initiation. Tin pest’s presence leads to more tin pests as the decomposition process catalyzes itself, which means that the reactions will speed up once it starts.

Ammonium Dichromate Volcano

An orange crystalline solid at room temperature, Ammonium dichromate gets ignited due to high heat such as that from a Bunsen burner. The ignition due to heat exposure results in orange sparks that produce the effect of a miniature volcanic eruption. The reaction produces green chromium oxide crystals. Though a lot of mass evaporates from the starting material but the resultant product looks like a larger amount of material. The best way to perform this demo is by using an aluminum foil which can later be used to wrap up the chromium crystals. The decomposition process occurs as follows:

(NH4)2Cr2O7(s) ----> Cr2O3(s) + N2 (g) + 4H2O (g)

Pharaoh’s Serpent: 

The decomposition of mercury thiocynate (Hg (SCN) 2) due to a heat source leads to an immediate exothermic reaction that results in a large, coiled mass of serpent like solid. Wohler discovered this property and it was later commercially used in fireworks but the toxic fumes of mercury gases lead to the death of several children.

Chlorine Trifluoride

Chlorine Trifluoride, ClF3, is termed as a strong oxidizer agent than oxygen itself. So anything that has been burnt to a crisp can be burned further by Chlorine trifluoride. It is such a strong agent that it can even ignite nonflammable objects without any ignition source. Chlorine trifluoride and gases like it have been reported to ignite sand, asbestos, and other highly fire-retardant materials as well. Exposure to skin, whether in the form of liquid or gas will ignite the tissue. Chlorine Trifluoride is considered as a component of interest in rocket fuel but due to corrosiveness and handling issues, it is not used.

Nitrogen triiodide- Contact Explosive

An inorganic compound with the formula NI3, Nitrogen triiodide is a very sensitive explosive. The nature of sensitivity can be measured by the fact that small quantities of NI3 when touched with even a feather can result in a loud and sharp explosion. Nitrogen triiodide is the only known chemical explosive that detonates on exposure to alpha particles and nuclear fission products. The explosion leaves orange to purple iodine stains which can be removed using sodium thiosulfate solution.

Paramagnetism of Liquid Oxygen

Paramagnetism is a form of magnetism whereby certain materials are attracted by an externally applied magnetic field. The formation of liquid oxygen from its gaseous state leaves a few electrons unpaired which gives liquid oxygen its magnetic property. When the liquid form of oxygen is poured over a magnet, the molecules align to create an induced magnetic field. This phenomenon is termed as Paramagnetism. Liquid oxygen fades away eventually and the resultant mist produced, as it boils off, is still attracted to the magnets.

16295   27/05/2014

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