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ETpro's avatar

What is the most amazing looking chemical reaction?

Asked by ETpro (34482points) February 13th, 2011

To get this started, let me point you to the rather startling chemical clock, the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction. Lest you think this is a fake, and not just a specific set of chemicals combined then excited past equilibrium, see the explanation of the BZ reaction here.

And yes, it is absolutely amazing enough to deserve a name that complex. But after watching the video of it, you will see thumbnails to a ton of additional examples of chemical reactions that exhibit self organization out of apparent chaos. Or you can search YouTube for things like chemical clocks, Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Reactions, or Google non-equilibrium thermodynamic chemical reactions.

Which is the absolute coolest. Please post a link to your favorite, video of such a reaction and feel free to comment or contribute about what these phenomena represent to you.

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16 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

My two chemical reactions are very simple. They have no fancy chemical names, but they have both worked for generations.

1. To place a tablespoon of baking soda into a cup of vinegar and watch the foam appear!

2. Place a piece of dry ice into a pan of water and watch the fog appear.

And, I forgot about the egg in the bottle experiment. Find an old glass milk bottle. Boil and peel an egg. Light a small fire inside the milk bottle and place the boiled egg on top. Vacuum will suck the egg through the hole of the milk bottle and to the bottom of the milk bottle.

The preceding was brought to you by the JP Institute of Simple Chemical Reactions

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

For me it is the results of ceramic glaze experiments that I do.
Eutectics Baby,Yeah! :)

ETpro's avatar

@john65pennington I like that egg in a milk bottle trick too. And to get it back out, you can use your first chemical reaction. Pour in a bit ov vinegar, dump in some baking soda, and invert the bottle after the reaction begins.

@lucillelucillelucille That’s right. I’m familiar with eutectic solders. I’ve heard that there are glazing compounds that are selected for the same property, exhibiting, in the proper proportions, a melting (or solidification) temperature lower than that of any of the constituent materials..

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I do it to get the lowest melting temp within my firing range.
It is an absolute blast doing these experiments and sometimes I get a treasure.
Now if I could just keep my notes in order :)

ETpro's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille BTW, one of my passions as a kid was geology. Nature uses eutectic mixtures of minerals in igneous rocks (rocks formed in the earth’s molten magma) to form some exquisite patterns. See granophyres.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I used to love lighting off ammonium dichromate . It starts off bright orange and turns into a pile of green ash.
Toxic chemicals, toxic fumes, sparks and flames – What’s not to like?

Cruiser's avatar


ETpro's avatar

@worriedguy That really makes a believable volcano. Very cool video. Thanks

@Cruiser When that chemical soup hits just right, it sets off my very favorite chemical reaction in the Universe. Thanks.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ETpro It makes a mess like a volcano too. My mom used to hate when I did it. The ash got over everything.
I once put at dash of thermite starter and thermite at the bottom of the pile. I only did that once.

ETpro's avatar

@worriedguy Sounds like we were similar experimenters in our youth. I was into amateur rocketry and of course, had to make a few pipe bombs as well in order to test new solid rocket propellants. These days when so many idiots make pipe bombs as political statements, I won;t share what I learned. But I came up with a mix that rivasled C4 in explosive power per ounce. You could lay out a pile of it on a wide open surface and run a fuse to it and it would detonate like a bomb. Nothing enclosing it whatsoever.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ETpro Yep. We definitely swung from the same trees in our youth. Back then, it was the “smart” kids who played with that stuff. Now it’s the idoits/anarchists.
The smart kids still want to but are afraid of getting in trouble.

Foolaholic's avatar

I can’t really speak to chemical reactions, but my friend discovered this gallery of different liquors viewed under a microscope, and some of the content there is quite beautiful and surreal.

mattbrowne's avatar

Amino acids forming in interstellar space.

ETpro's avatar

@markferg Very cool. It really shows you why they call this class of reaction a chemical clock. You can almost hear it clicking.

@worriedguy Ha! Sounds like we still have a great deal in common.

@Foolaholic That is a super cool set of photos. Thanks. I know when I drink too much I see stuff like that. Now I have some clue as to why.

@mattbrowne That boggles my mind too. Thanks.

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