Common Chemicals that Misbehave (Jun, 1935)
Common Chemicals that Misbehave
by KEN MURRAY
FOLLOWING textbook instructions in performing chemical experiments at home may be conducive to safety, but the real thrills of research come from those experiments which you work out for yourself.
Certain chemicals just do not get along well together, and can misbehave in a manner which may cause acute embarrassmentâ€”and pain. To avoid accidents, keep the following list of chemical tricksters in mind whenever you venture into free-lance experimenting. IODINE mixed with ammonia water forms a brown sludge at the bottom of a test tube. This is nitrogen iodide; when a piece the size of a pin head is dried on paper, it will explode with a very loud bang at the slightest jar. Larger quantities explode of their own weight before becoming powerful enough to do damage. Never add volatile oils to crystals of iodineâ€”they will fulminate, and explode.
HYDROCHLORIC ACID mixed with nux vomica is an unstable solution, liable to break its container several hours after mixing.
COPPER NITRATE which is perfectly dry is unsafe to pound with a hammer or pestle.
SULPHURIC ACID mixed with oil of turpentine may explode. When sulphuric and nitric acids are mixed, never add hydrocarbons in any form. Even the addition of sugar syrup will make a compound which may become extremely undesirable.
CHLORATES, particularly potassium chlorate, are very unstable and combine explosively with other common chemicals such as sulphur, sodium hyposulphite (ordinary photography hypo), tannic and oxalic acids, iodine, and potassium permanganate.
POTASSIUM PERMANGANATE will cause spontaneous combustion when mixed with either glycerine or oxalic acid, or with a mixture of alcohol and distilled water. To show the danger of this chemical, mix ten grains of the permanganate with five drops of sulphuric acid; place a little on a glass rod, and touch to a bit of cotton soaked in alcohol. The cotton will ignite immediately.
ANTIMONY SULPHURET, the chemical which provides the crackling sound in Fourth of July “heel-crackers,” must be mixed carefully with other chemicals. Particularly avoid mixing it with a chlorate.