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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Chthulu Reaction



The orange powder is ammonium dichromate and when heat is introduced, it forms nitrogen gas, water, and ammonium (III) oxide, which is the dark powder that looks like the volcano you see.
What appears to be tentacles is actually what happens when heat is introduced to mercury (II) thiocyanate. The white solid expands when it's heated to become a dark, tentacle-like mass due to its decomposition to carbon nitride. In addition, sulfur dioxide and mercury (II) sulfide are also produced. The reaction is appropriately nicknamed the "Pharoah's Serpent" and was sold in stores as fireworks until people realized it's toxic.

TOF remembers those "fireworks." You lit up a pellet and a "snake" grew out of it and curled all over. He does not recall all the 4th of July dead bodies from the mercury thiocyanate, sulfur dioxide, and mercury sulfide, but supposes they must have been on the next block.

1 comment:

  1. Always suspected those people on the next block were zombies. Explains a lot.

    I remember these as the fireworks you played with while somebody was converting the 'Piccolo Petes' into bottle rockets: pull off the little stand, squeeze the paper cylinder hard with pliers about 2/3 way down (so they would explode), attach a wooden skewer with tape, insert into a bottle, and light it.

    These improved fireworks added the whistle sound to the basic bottle rocket performance. The quality of the explosion varied greatly. They weren't a nimble as the real deals - more Saturn V than Stinger. But since bottle rockets were made illegal in our neck of SoCal , we loved them.

    Also worked nicely as short lived and tragically terminal propellants for surplus balsa wood aircraft.

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