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Totally Blowing Shit Up Tuesdays: Clean Burning, Even Heating Propane

September 22, 2009

One of my guilty pleasures is being totally fucking lazy and not posting nearly often enough to satisfy the hordes of ravenous readers I have show up here every day King of the Hill. I'm not sure if it's Hank's no-nonsense approach to the world or his love of propane (I worked on cyclopropane in grad school) or just the fact that I pretty much look like him (though I don't need butt implants), but I'm a big fan of Hank Hill.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I was sure that I'd get a little Bobby Hill, which was really quite a terrifying thought. I should also add to the story here that my wife is WAY better looking than Peggy Hill. Also, she doesn't get upset when I dream about grilling naked with the neighbors. urethra is not narrow, thank you very much.

Why am I bringing all this Hank Hill goodliness up now? It's all a lead in for this week's edition of Totally Blowing Shit Up Tuesdays. And, well, I've already talked about how much I enjoy watching Brainiac, and I don't need to be reminded--again--of how they will sometimes augment their explosions for better television viewing.

In case you're not overly familiar with the Brainiac series, they featured a whole host of episodes in which they pitted everyday things against the awesome power of thermite. That's how I first heard of the ice explosion thing that I trotted out last week. They've done other things, but now matter how much stuff they vaporize/burn through/detonate, I'm still impressed with the fiery curtain of destruction that is the thermite reaction. Chemistry is fucking awesome.

Wait? What? Blowing my own horn? No. Never. Just reaffirming why I got into this business in the first place.

Back to the topic at hand. As I mentioned previously, last week I showed you what happens when you mix ice and thermite. I'll bet you were like, "Yeah, that's pretty impressive, there, indefatigable one, but what happens when you mix thermite and, say, a cylinder of propane?"

Well, wonder no more:

Explosions are full-frontal awesome.

Not much sciencey going on here. Actually, there is. The thermite, which, after it starts the reaction, is basically a cascade of molten iron, burning at a balmy 2500 degrees Celsius. This is hot enough to melt through the steel cylinder holding the propane. And, with propane having a flash point -104 degrees Celsius, thermite is also hot enough to ignite the liquified gas housed within.

Sorry that I made you do math, even if it was just "less than, greater than, or equal to".

The fun part here, of course, is that the gas ignites first, which acts as a wick for the liquid fuel lying within the cylinder. It explodes because the thermite only punches a thin hole in the tank, trapping most of the vapor and liquid inside. Once the fire hits the fuel, it's Kaboom time, and I'm not talking about a deliciously over-sugared breakfast cereal (though that would kick ass, too).

Mmmmmm...sugary bits of what used to be edible grains mixed with food coloring and marshmallows....

Hey, I wonder if that shit would blow up, too...


JenJen said...

Quote of the day:
"explosions are full-frontal awesome"
I'm cute; I don't like math.

Jules said...

Please blow up the cereal! THAT would be awesome!!

Scope said...

I bet the sugar in the cereal would burn real nice.

Elliott said...

Thermite rocks.

WV - digesse

Chemgeek said...

Whoever thought simply transferring a few electrons from aluminum to iron could be so entertaining.

Jill Pilgrim said...

I have insomnia, not the kind where you can't fall asleep, but the kind where you can't stay asleep. I wake just about every night around 2 in the morning. The upside? King of The Hill is on at 2:00 in the morning. High five insomnia!

otherworldlyone said...

Kaboom cereal...ah, memories.

Full-frontal awesome is the new "in" phrase.

snowelf said...

It has whole grain so it must be healthy.
I love how the brainacs have the little skull symbol dividing the segments like batman. :P


Lisa-tastrophies said...


Raine said...

Holy shit that was awesome!

Although, I am skipping work today, therefore banning science for the day - that was worth it!

Nej said...

Full frontal awesome (giggle)