This is the article that’s gonna make you regret you weren’t paying attention in the chemistry class. Here are sixteen amazing chemical reactions that will blow your mind:

Mercury reacting with aluminum

 

Aluminum, when it combines with oxygen, forms aluminum oxide, an incredibly hard substance that is scratch resistant. It doesn’t flake off (like iron oxide), sealing the rest of aluminum. But mercury disrupts that seal – it combines with aluminum, tearing it off from the larger structure, forming ‘feathers’ or ‘pillars’ of oxide up from the pool of mercury.

Aluminum reaction with iodine

The reaction between aluminum and iodine is catalyzed by water. It’s a spectacular demonstration as clouds of purple iodine vapor are produced. Sometimes, this amazing chemical reaction can be violent so don’t try this at home.

Belousov–Zhabotinsky chemical reaction

The mechanism for this reaction is very complex and is thought to involve around 18 different steps which have been the subject of a number of research papers – for more information, read this article. The classic BZ chemical reaction involves potassium bromate, cerium(IV) sulfate, and propanedioic acid (aka malonic acid) in dilute sulfuric acid. The color changes are due to the oscillating oxidation state of cerium.

Blood meets hydrogen peroxide

Many people have felt this amazing chemical reaction on their own skin. Hydrogen peroxide is good for cutting cuts and scrapes… but why does it foam like this? Well, it does this because blood and cells contain an enzyme called catalase. When the catalase comes in contact with hydrogen peroxide, it turns the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) into water (H2O) and oxygen gas (O2).

Catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide

Two solutions are mixed resulting in an eruption of foam resembling a huge stream of toothpaste. This is the classic “Elephant Toothpaste” reaction.

Ferrofluid

Electrical treeing

As surreal as it may seem, treeing of solid high-voltage cable insulation is a common breakdown mechanism and source of electrical faults in underground power cables. In electrical engineering, treeing is an electrical pre-breakdown phenomenon in solid insulation. It is a damaging process due to partial discharges.

A flashbulb burning out

 

The bulb is filled with magnesium wire, and when the camera’s shutter trips, current is passed through the wire, which ignites the magnesium and produces a bright flash.

Lithium Combustion

If you thought that’s cool… here’s the combustion of mercury II thiocyanate

Alpha particle trails from radioactive decay of Radon 220

Snake venom meets blood

 

Dehydration of sugar in sulfuric acid

White tin crumbling into grey tin after cooling to less than 13 degrees Celsius

Sodium acetate crystallization

…and a portal to hell, apparently

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 ZME Science

Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!

Like us on Facebook