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Q & A: How to Blow Stuff Up!

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
This sound dumb but could you tell me how to make a REAL easy explosion that can be contained in a fume hood. This is for my chem class it needs to be "cool" for the class is grading it Could you tell me using easy to find products how to make something like a fireball or mini firework Just something that is fairly easy to create and will make high schoolers go awwwww! THANK YOU
- jerry (age 16)
sahauro h.s., tucson
A:
Jerry -

Here's a really easy explosion that you may have seen before. Have you ever seen a model volcano that explodes using baking soda and vinegar? The reason that this works is because when you mix the baking soda and vinegar there is a chemical reaction that produces lots of gas (carbon dioxide). The gas takes up a lot more room than the solid baking soda or the liquid vinegar, so it sends spurts of bubbles shooting out of the top of the volcano.

Well, the same thing will happen even without model volcano to do it inside of. For instance, if you put a little bit of baking soda in one corner of a small ziploc bag and a little bit of vinegar in the other, then seal the bag and mix it up, the same reaction will occur. Gas will be formed and it will need someplace to go, so it will have to pop the bag open to get out. But just like with any explosion, you have to be very careful when you’re doing this. Use /very/ small amounts of baking soda and vinegar and use a fairly weak bag. (Sturdier plastic bags will be harder to pop, so when they do pop it will be much more forceful.) When you set the bag down, point the (now sealed) opening away from you – this is the part most likely to pop open first. And, of course, stand back.

For any sort of explosion involving fire, however, you should be shown how to do it by someone with experience, not just read about it on the internet. Try asking your science teacher to help you with this one.

-Tamara

(published on 10/22/2007)

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