Scientific Experiments in Awesome GIFs

Yes, chemistry is pretty awesome.

Hydrogen Peroxide Mixed With Potassium Iodide

What happens

Also known as the “Marshmallow Experiment”. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide is first mixed with liquid soap. Then a catalyst is added to make the hydrogen peroxide break down very quickly. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into oxygen and water. As a small amount of hydrogen peroxide generates a large volume of oxygen, the oxygen quickly pushes out of the container. The soapy water traps the oxygen, creating bubbles, and turns into foam. Often some food coloring is added before the catalyst, which makes the resulting column of foam look even more like toothpaste. [via Wikipedia]

Chemical explanation

This experiment shows the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide catalyzed by potassium iodide. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) decomposes into water and oxygen gas, but normally the reaction is too slow to be easily perceived or measured:

2H2O2 → 2H2O(l) + O2(g)

The iodide ions from potassium iodide acts as a catalyst—it speeds up the reaction without being consumed in the reaction process. The iodide ion changes the mechanism, by which the reaction occurs:

H2O2 + I H2O + IO
H2O2 + IO H2O + O2 + I

2H2O2 2H2O(l) + O2(g) ΔrH° = −196 kJ/mol

Oxygen quickly leaves the system causing strong foaming of the detergent, so the foam erupts out. Steam rising from the foam shows that the reaction is exothermic (gives off heat). Minimum quantities of iodine are being liberated and can be detected by its colour if the experiment is done without dyes.

Explosive Polymerization of p Nitro Aniline

This video is by Adrian McLaughlin, aka plasticraincoat1 on YouTube, who shows us one of the most magnificent examples of explosive polymerization ever. In the video, what appears to be about 1/2 tsp of p-nitroaniline (which is short for para-nitroaniline, which is also referred to as 4-nitroaniline) is treated with a few drops of concentrated sulfuric acid, in a ceramic dish, over a Bunsen burner flame.  [via]

Melting Metal With Magnets

The copper wire has a significant amount of AC electricity running through it, causing it to act like a really strong electromagnet. In the metal slug, eddy currents form due to the magnetic field the copper wire is causing while the copper wire has high frequency AC flowing through it. The metal slug’s electric resistance causes a portion of the electric energy to turn into heat, but the heat builds up until the metal slug becomes white hot and melts. [via]

Candles can be lit by their vapor trail

This is a video showing how you can light the smoke of a recently extinguished candle to relight the candle. It works because the smoke isn’t actually smoke, it’s vaporized candle wax and can still catch fire.

Create a vacuum in an empty tank

Gases generally obey the following formula:


p is pressure, V volume, N the number of gas molecules, and T the temperature. k is a constant, and not relevant to this discussion. The car is filled with hot steam that cools and (some of it) converts to water. This reduces T and N, thus, since V is constant, p is also reduced. When p is reduced enough, the pressure from the atmosphere becomes more than the walls of the car can hold on their own. Hence the implosion. [Tom Brattain]

Heating Mercury Thiocyanate

It is an inorganic chemical compound, the salt of Hg2+ and the thiocyanate anion. It is a stable solid at room temperature that has the appearance of white powder with chunks; it can also be grey in color, depending on purity. It will produce a large, winding “snake” when set on fire. This is known as the Pharaoh’s Serpent. Though some people still use it for this purpose, it is generally avoided because of the production of toxic gases when this reaction occurs. [via]

Liquid Nitrogen Mixed With 1500 Ping Pong Balls

After a few moments of suspense, the action happens. The event results from the pressure in the tightly sealed container of liquid nitrogen. Lowry explains: “The liquid [nitrogen] will turn into gas, and the pressure will build up and up and up.” [via]

Flammable Gas Lit In A Glass Jar

Sodium Polyacrylate Mixed With Water
Sodium Polyacrylate Mixed With Water

Sodium polyacrylate acts like a sponge and absorbs moisture. When mixed with water, the compound actually turns into a solid gel. Once the sodium polyacrylate forms a gel, the water is no longer liquid and can’t pour out. Technically, the particles in sodium polyacrylate have a property known as being hygroscopic, which means that they absorb and hold water. Of course, this property is the reason why the compound is used in baby diapers to absorb moisture and keep babies dry and comfortable. [via]

Electrical Discharge

Called Electric Treeing, the GIF above shows an electrical pre-breakdown phenomenon where due to partial discharges and progresses through the stressed dielectric insulation, electricity takes a path resembling the branches of a tree.  [via]

Lithium On Fire

The main reaction going on here is 4Li + O2 → 2Li2O. Burning Lithium in air creates Lithium Oxide, Lithium Peroxide and Lithium Nitride. Small amounts of Li2O2 will also react with CO2 in the air.  [via]

Push two identical clouds of smoke

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3 Responses to Scientific Experiments in Awesome GIFs

  1. Very, very cool. Nice collection of GIFs.

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