10 amazing chemical reaction GIFs

first_imgThere are innumerable chemical reactions going on all around us that would leave your head spinning. However, they’re happening at such a small scale that you don’t really get a good macroscopic look at them too often. Well, luckily there are chemists and reckless tinkerers to blow things up. Let’s zero in on some of the coolest chemical reactions in GIF form.Click the gallery to see each on of the reactions and then check out the full explanations of each animations below… without your browser being weighed down by all those hefty GIFs!Belousov–Zhabotinsky reactionThe Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction is one of the more mysterious chemical reactions that can be easily reproduced — it encompasses as many as 18 steps. This is one of several reactions that serve as an example of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. The expanding rings are a “chemical oscillator.” The malonic acid and potassium bromate react to produce carbon dioxide, water, and bromine. The rings expand outward, but dissipate when the container is disturbed. They come right back, though, and the eventually consume the reactants.Blood drop in hydrogen peroxideHydrogen peroxide is a so-called reactive oxygen species. You may be familiar with it as an antimicrobial agent — get a scrape, pour some hydrogen peroxide on it. What you see in the GIF is a bigger version of the bubbling on the surface of your scrape. Hydrogen peroxide is a naturally occurring substance that is used in cells, but all aerobic (oxygen-breathing) organisms have an enzyme called catalase in their blood to break down excess hydrogen peroxide. That’s where the bubbles come from. Catalase breaks down hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen gas.Luminol exposed to oxidantLuminol is an organic compound that is widely used by forensic investigators. It exhibits chemiluminescence when it is exposed to an oxidizing agent. Oxygen will do nicely, and iron is a good catalyst for the reaction. Blood contains iron, so Luminol is considered a good preliminary test for the presence of blood, even if it has been mostly scrubbed away.Supercooled waterEverything about this image seems wrong. If water is cold enough to freeze, it should be frozen, right? Water’s freezing/melting point is 0°C, but the crystallization process needs some sort of impurity or nucleation site to begin. That’s not a problem most of the time, but very pure distilled water in a smooth container can become colder than freezing without crystallizing. Here, supercooled water is poured out, and the disturbance causes it to crystallize instantly.Radon in a cloud chamberA cloud chamber is a particle detector used to study ionizing radiation. The environment inside the chamber is supersaturated with alcohol vapor. When a charged particle (like an alpha or beta particle) zips through the gas, it ionizes it causing condensation trails to form. Here, the radon 220 atoms are decaying into stable lead atoms and releasing two alpha particles (helium-4 nuclei) ions the process, which are producing the trails.Crystallization of sodium acetateSodium acetate is the basis for those reusable hand warmer packs. That’s basically the reaction you’re seeing here. Sodium acetate has a very high melting point, so if you heat it, the supersaturated solution will liquefy in water. Then it cools (it’s technically supercooled, like the water from before) and is ready to crystalize. In this GIF, a crystal is dropped in to catalyze the recrystallization process. In hand warmers, a small disc is depressed that disturbs the supersaturated solution and starts the crystallization. This process releases the energy stored in the solution as heat.Ammonium dichromate on fireAmmonium dichromate is an inorganic salt. Just like the explosive fertilizer ammonium nitrate, ammonium dichromate is thermodynamically unstable. Igniting it results in the conversion of ammonium dichromate to nitrogen gas, water, and a whole lot of dark green powdered chromium(III) oxide. This is sometimes called Vesuvian Fire because it looks like a volcano.Red Hot Nickel Ball on iceThis one is pretty straight forward. Our old friend the red hot nickel ball (RHNB) is placed on a block of ice, which it then melts down to the center of. The RHNB is well over 1000°F when it’s placed on the ice, so it’s not hard to believe it sinks in so fast.Burning rainbowDifferent chemicals can be used to produce different color flames. This is called the pyrotechnic effect and is used in fireworks and other forms of pyrotechnics. This is the result of thermal energy converted in electromagnetic radiation as light (black-body radiation). When electrons in an atom are excited by heat, they can be pushed into higher energy orbitals. When the electrons fall back down, they emit light. The wavelength of this light is what causes the differing colors.Nitrocellulose boomNitrocellulose has been used for all manner of things. It has been used as a low-power explosive, a base for x-ray film, and a substrate for protein binding in certain molecular biology assays. Its use has drastically diminished due to its extreme flammability. Igniting nitrocellulose leaves almost none of the original substance intact. It’s all water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen gas. VIEW PHOTO GALLERY Belousov–Zhabotinsky reactionBelousov–Zhabotinsky reactionAn example of the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction in a petri dish. This is the result of malonic acid reacting with potassium bromate. Blood drop in hydrogen peroxideThis is a few drops of blood being added to a high-concentration solution of hydrogen peroxide. The puffing up is from the production of water and oxygen gas.Luminol exposed to oxidantThe blue glow is Luminol being exposed to oxygen. The blue glow is caused by the luminol reacting with oxygen and a catalyst like iron or copper.Supercooled waterWater that has been cooled below freezing, but remains in a liquid state will rapidly freeze when given the right encouragement.Radon 220 in a cloud chamberRadioactive radon 220 gas being piped into a cloud chamber. The vapor trails are produced by radioactive decay.Crystallization of sodium acetateThis is a supersaturated solution of sodium acetate being spontaneously crystallized by the introduction of a small flake of crystallized sodium acetate.Ammonium dichromate on fireAmmonium dichromate is thermodynamically unstable, so providing an ignition source results in a strongly exothermic reaction.Red Hot Nickel Ball on iceSuperheat one ball of nickel, place on block of ice, and enjoy.Burning rainbowColored flames from left to right: Lithium, sodium chloride, boric acid, and methanol.Nitrocellulose boomNitrocellulose, also known as guncotton, is highly a flammable hydrocarbon compound. A tiny bit of heat, and it detonates cleanly.An example of the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction in a petri dish. This is the result of malonic acid reacting with potassium bromate.last_img read more