Experiments with bangs, fire, or smoke
Many serious home chemistry persons think that fire, smoke
and bangs only are good for kewls, but one cannot deny that especially this kind
of experiments has a big appeal for most people. For many people it is this kind
of experiments which have sparked their interest in science. For that reason, the list of
this type of experiments is fairly long.
This type of experiments has a higher inherent risk
profile than many other experiments described on this site. Experiments,
requiring extra care are marked with
As a general rule of thumb, adhere to the instructions
given in the web pages and
do not scale up these experiments
for added effect. All of the experiments can be carried out safely, even
in a normal home setting, as long as the tiny amounts of chemicals are used as
described in the web pages.
List of fully worked out experiments:
Miniature explosions in a test tube
sulphuric acid, potassium permanganate and alcohol can be used to make
sparks and crackling noise in a test tube, which looks really
spectacular, especially in a dimly lit room.
Miniature fireworks (bright flashes)
in a test tube. A mix of red phosphorus, aluminium powder and a
suitable oxidizer, such as potassium nitrate, when thrown in chlorine
gas, gives a very bright flash.
Water-initiated violent reaction between
magnesium and iodine. When a drop of water is added to a mix of
finely ground iodine and powdered magnesium, then a violent reaction
starts, with formation of copious amounts of purple iodine vapor.
. Methanol and
ethanol burn with a very pale blue flame. When some boric acid is
dissolved in them, then they burn with a beautiful bright green flame.
Reaction between bromine and aluminium
. When a small
piece of aluminium is put in liquid bromine, then after some induction
period, a very violent reaction starts, with fire and brilliant sparks.
Liquid from hell -- fire on first contact
. An organic
solvent like acetone or ethanol inflames at once, when brought in
contact with a mix of potassium permanganate and concentrated sulphuric
High speed image capturing of miniature explosions (1)
. A very small
amount of mix of red
phosphorus and finely ground potassium periodate explodes on ignition.
This gives a bright flash, and after the explosion a nice small pink/purple
cloud of smoke is formed. In this experiment, high speed images were
captured of such an explosion.
High speed image capturing of miniature explosions
(2) . This is
another high speed image capturing experiment. Here, a drop of acetone
is put on a mix of concentrated sulphuric acid and potassium
permanganate. This results in immediate and very violent combustion of
the acetone. A nice high speed image series is made of such an
Preparation of a highly explosive
. Silver ions
react with acetylene gas, even at low pH (around 0), giving an off-white
precipitate of impure silver acetylide. This precipitate is highly
explosive, when it is dry. It has no practical applications, but it
makes a nice demo when prepared in small amounts.
High voltage electrolysis
. The experiment,
described in this page is somewhat at the border of physics and
chemistry. A salt solution is electrolysed with a plasma beam as anode,
generated from a high voltage source, supplying an output voltage of
more than 10 kV.
Nitration of a piece of cellulose
wadding . A
classical experiment, in which ordinary white cellulose wadding is
nitrated with a mix of concentrated nitric acid and concentrated
sulphuric acid. It is shown, how fast such a nitrated piece of cellulose
wadding can burn.
Beautiful green and blue light.
This set of page describes the making of barium bromate and cesium
bromate and shows how these compounds can be used to make a pyrotechnic
mix with remarkably bright green and blue light emission when it is
Formation of dense smoke from bromine and
. Ammonia gas and
bromine vapor react with each other, giving dense smoke of ammonium
bromide. In this experiment, some bromine vapor is poured into an
erlenmeyer, containing dilute ammonia gas. The result is stunning.
Explosive mix with red
phosphorus and a peroxo chromate
. One of the most
powerful explosive mixes, described on this entire website. Not of any
practical value, but it makes a cool demonstration.
Violent 'combustion' of acetylene in
. Acetylene gas
(from calcium carbide, also known as 'carbid') is bubbled into an
erlenmeyer, filled with pure chlorine gas. This results in violent
explosion-like combustion of the acetylene in the chlorine gas. A rather scary, but spectacular experiment.
Colored smoke -- purple and yellow.
This is a surprising experiment. A mix of potassium periodate and
ammonium thiocyanate is ignited. Initially, the smoke, produced from the
burning mix, is purple, but this smoke quickly turns golden yellow.
Water-initiated light and smoke
. A mix of finely
ground silver nitrate and magnesium powder gives an intensely bright and
hot flash, when a small amount of water is added to this. This is a
spectacular experiment, which must be carried out carefully.
Reaction between bromine/chlorine and
When red phosphorus is immersed in an atmosphere of bromine vapor or
chlorine gas, then it ignites and keeps burning in the bromine vapor or
Electrolysis of water --
detonating gas. Water is decomposed by means of electrolysis of a
dilute sulphuric acid solution. The resulting gases are mixed and the
impressive explosive power of this gas mix is demonstrated.
Dehydration and oxidation of sugar by
concentrated sulphuric acid. This is a spectacular experiment, in
which sugar is charred by concentrated sulphuric acid. A lot of black
foam, smoke and noise is produced.
Color of the flame of burning gases.
Different gases are collected in a test tube, sucked in a syringe, and
then ignited. Many different flame colors can be obtained from different
gases. Some flame colors are remarkable, such as pink/rose and grey.
Barking dog reaction
. Nitrous oxide is
mixed with carbon disulfide vapor and this mix is ignited. This results
in a very spectacular reaction with bright light and an impressive
barking noise. This is a very old classical experiment of great
Preparation and properties of
ammonium periodate. A simple experiment, in which ammonium (meta)periodate
is made. This compound explodes when it is heated.
Violent reaction between
hydrazine and periodate. In this experiment it is demonstrated that
hydrazine and periodate react extremely violently and so much heat is
produced that iodine escapes as vapor, even from aqueous solutions!
phosphine in chlorine gas .
In this experiment some phosphine is prepared, and the gas is bubbled in
an atmosphere of chlorine, resulting in self-ignition of the gas and
contraction of gas volume. This is a spectacular experiment and is
suitable for a good demonstration.
Isolation of peroxo complex
In this experiment a peroxo complex of vanadium is made and this complex
is isolated as a dry powdered solid. The isolated compound is stable on
storage and has energetic properties. A mix with red phosphorus
deflagrates on ignition.
Formation of a self-igniting gas from fine
sand powder and magnesium
. Magnesium metal
and finely powdered sand are reacted to form magnesium silicide, which
in contact with dilute acids produces self-igniting silane gas. This is
a spectacular experiment, which must be carried out carefully.
Ammonium halates, unstable
Ammonium bromate and ammonium iodate are prepared and it is demonstrated
how easily and violently they decompose on slight heating. This is a
nice and fairly spectacular experiment, but it should not be scaled up.
Explosive properties of chlorine
. The brightly
colored chlorine dioxide gas is prepared and ignited. This results in a
nice and quite spectacular decompositon reaction.
Explosion of chlorine dioxide, initiated
by presence of ammonia
experiment, which demonstrates the danger of chlorine dioxide. This
experiment shows how chlorine dioxide can be brought to explosion,
simply by adding a few drops of household ammonia.
Violent decomposition of
hydrazine perchlorate and fairy-like sparkles. A small quantity of
hydrazine perchlorate is prepared and this compound is heated, leading
to a peculiar fairy-like sparkling when heating is not too strong and
violent deflagration on stronger heating.
Violent decomposition of an
organic perchlorate salt. A perchlorate salt of a basic organic
amine is prepared and it is shown how this salt decomposes violently
when it is ignited.
Delayed self-ignition of
mix of periodic acid and red phosphorus. Some red phosphorus and
periodic acid are mixed. After a while, this mix suddenly self-ignites
and a plume of fire and smoke is produced.
Tidbits and raw material with
some nice results and ideas:
- Explosive properties
of peroxo chromates. Some potassium tetraperoxochromate(V) is heated.
The material suddenly explodes, giving a puff of yellow smoke, containing
- Flash powder with manganese
dioxide. Manganese dioxide, mixed with aluminium powder makes a
powerful, but somewhat hard to ignite flash powder. Mixing in a tiny amount
of red phosphorus makes ignition much easier.
- Dangerous experiments with
Some sodium metal is put in a test tube which contains
some dilute hydrochloric acid. Hydrogen gas is produced in this reaction.
The heat of the reaction is so great, that at a certain point, the hydrogen
is ignited and explodes with a loud bang.
Sodium skirting over water
surface. This is a very simple experiment. Some sodium is thrown in
a tank, filled with water, in which some phenolphtalein pH indicator is dissolved. This
results in a nice visual effect.
- Violent reaction between
nitromethane and sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide is added to pure
nitromethane. After a short induction period, a violent reaction occurs.
- Sensitivity of mix of
potassium chlorate and red phosphorus. Tiny amounts of potassium chlorate and red
phosphorus are mixed and the mix is set off, simply by tapping on it with a
smooth glass rod.
- Violence of a nitration
runaway. A nice and funny experiment. Some isopropyl alcohol is added to
a mix of nitric acid and sulphuric acid. As soon as the alcohol reaches this
mix, an exceedingly violent reaction occurs, in which a big plume of
red/brown nitrogen dioxide is formed.
- Green fire with boron
compound. Some dimethyl amine borane complex is burned. This is a
flammable solid, which smoothly burns with a bright green flame.
- A fast and complete
formation of an inorganic ester. A mix of methanol and some dilute acid
is treated with some solid sodium nitrite or potassium nitrite. A fast
reaction occurs, in which methyl nitrite escapes as gas. This gas is shown
to be flammable.
- Colored flames with
metal salts. Several metal salts are mixed with alcohol, and a piece of
filter paper is soaked with this and then the paper is ignited. Colorful
deep red or bright green flames can be produced in this way.
- Pyrotechnic mix with purple
gaseous combustion product. A mix of potassium periodate and sulphur
burns with a small flame and purple iodine vapor is produced as well,
without production of smoke.
- Near-explosions with
Alcohol is put in flasks with long necks or long tubes and then
the air/alcohol mix is ignited. In this way, 'walking' flames can be
produced, which proceed through the flask or tube, often with high speed and
with nearly explosive violence.