Alfred Nobel

Dynamite (Alfred Nobel)

In 1867, the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel discovered that the highly dangerous liquid explosive known as nitroglycerin could be absorbed onto clay or sawdust to produce a solid that was much more stable and therefore safer to use. When dynamite is detonated, the nitroglycerin decomposes to produce a mixture of CO2, H2O, N2, and O2 gases.

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Because 29 moles of gas are produced for every four moles of liquid that decompose, and each mole of gas occupies a volume roughly 800 times larger than a mole of liquid, this reaction produces a shock wave that destroys anything in its vicinity.

The same phenomenon occurs on a much smaller scale when we pop popcorn. When kernels of popcorn are heated in oil, the liquids inside the kernel turn into gases. The pressure that builds up inside the kernel is enormous and the kernel eventually explodes.


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