Follow by Email

Inspirational Reads

Totally Blowing Shit Up: Car Wars

November 17, 2009

With a tip of the hat to my good friend, Scope, I bring you this week's version of blowing shit up. Except...well...I'm not blowing shit up. But, I am ripping holes in things with cascades of molten metal.

A couple of weeks ago, back when I showed the pumpkin and the thermite reaction, Mr. C asked the question "It said it [thermite] could burn through the hood of a car, the engine block, and concrete. True?"

I could simply tell you the answer. But if Seymour Skinner has taught me anything about the conservation of angular momentum, it's that people learn better when you show them rather than explain to them. So, I humbly offer the video below.

Heh. They destroyed that car because it was French.

And, yeah, I know. There was no concrete under the car, so I didn't technically answer Mr. C's question. However, I can assure you that, with enough thermite, it will destroy the concrete underneath the car's engine block and bonnet. Remember, as they point out in the above clip, thermite burns at around two and a half thousand degrees Celsius. That's quite warm.

But, thermite's not just good for destroying the engine block of a car. And, frankly, I'd be doing you, my friends, a disservice if I didn't show you that thermite can also be used for the entire, wanton destruction of the entire car.

Don't believe me? Well, then you don't watch enough Mythbusters...

Sorry about the shitty quality of the film. It's the best I could find.

Okay, so Jamie said that thermite burns at 4500 degrees. That was in degrees Fahrenheit. Still, it's damned hot, as evidenced by the smoldering lump of bubbly steel left in the wake of Adam and Jamie's little "experiment."

So, if this is an experiment, then what is the reaction? Well, a "thermite" reaction is simply a metal oxide and another metal mixed together and, when heated, the oxide is transferred and a lot of extra heat is released during the course of the single-replacement reaction. For what we've seen twice above, this is the balanced chemical equation:

Fe2O3 + 2Al → 2Fe + Al2O3 + heat

I say the oxide is "transferred", but that may not be entirely true. The oxygen could, conceivably, come from the atmosphere. I don't know if anyone has done isotopic studies to make sure taht the oxide from the iron is ending up on the aluminum. Also, I don't know if 18O (O-eighteen) is stable at two and a half thousand degrees.

That's just one type of thermite, though. Another common form, used in welding (especially in the rail industry), uses copper instead of iron:

3CuO + 2Al → 3Cu + Al2O3 + heat

Anyway, the net product is one bitching hot reaction and, as Jamie says in the second video, it's really, really satisfying. Fortunately, the tires blew up during the course of the melting of the car with thermite. Hooray thermite! Hooray explosions!


mo.stoneskin said...

That first video was excellent. I'd like to try it myself.

What was your address again?

Candy's daily Dandy said...

That Mad Dog Molten Hot Sauce, could totally blow a hole out your ass....let's get a video of THAT!

Scope said...

To thermite! The cause of, and solution to, all life's problems!

Or something like that.

Do you think the flowerpot method would be good for teaching a lesson to people who park illegally in hadicapped parking spots?

Moooooog35 said...

Everytime I come here, I learn something new!

Please stop. My head hurts.

adrienzgirl said...

I totally want to be able to do some of the stuff they do on Mythbusters. Unlimited funds to blow shit up? And get paid for it? That is possibly the best effin job ever!

Travis said...

I know some people here in my hometown that would get quite the kick out of that stuff.

Thanks for the scientific side of it.

My equation looks something like this.

Beers+Thermite+Lighter+Emergency Room=Blog.

Ed Adams said...

I could really use some Thermite.

June said...

Wicked Shit!
Favorite line from first video
"The fiery concoction eats through the bonnet"

carissajaded said...

Where exactly do you get thermite? And will it work on a home?

lol at Travis's equation.. might have to try that one...

Joshua said...

The firewall at work won't let me view streaming video, so I can't wait to get home and watch them. This just sounds like something I'd like. Thanks for the science class, professor.


Nikki said...

I have this old bat SOB that keeps parking in front of my driveway and I was just wondering if maybe I can buy this stuff on eBay...

Margo said...

pyromaniacs of the world, rejoice!

JenJen said...

God I feel like I'm in college all over again with all these balanced reactions.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

All I read was blah, blah, equation I didn't understand, blah.

I miss the simplicity of exploding pumpkins.

Can't you just do a series called "Totally Blowing Shit Up: Turkeys?"

Nej said...

"Hooray thermite! Hooray explosions!"

I second that! :-)

Raine said...

Im sold. Thermite if fucking awesome. And such a seemingly simple reaction. We do such complex reactions and no cool explosions or anything.

Gruson said...

The copper/aluminium thermite reacts so fast that when placed in a confided space it explodes. Something to be weary of before trying. Here in Holland they still use iron/aluminium thermite when welding rails together.