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:
Table of contents
- 1 Mercury reacting with aluminum
- 2 Aluminum reaction with iodine
- 3 Belousov–Zhabotinsky chemical reaction
- 4 Blood meets hydrogen peroxide
- 5 Catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide
- 6 Ferrofluid
- 7 Electrical treeing
- 8 A flashbulb burning out
- 9 Lithium Combustion
- 10 If you thought that’s cool… here’s the combustion of mercury II thiocyanate
- 11 Alpha particle trails from radioactive decay of Radon 220
- 12 Snake venom meets blood
- 13 Dehydration of sugar in sulfuric acid
- 14 White tin crumbling into grey tin after cooling to less than 13 degrees Celsius
- 15 Sodium acetate crystallization
- 16 …and a portal to hell, apparently
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.
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.
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