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para nitroaniline Explosive PolymerizationAlmost two years ago to the day I wrote a post about how much I wanted to see a reaction of the type called “explosive polymerization.” That phrase appears here and there on hazard warnings for certain compounds and in the general context of chemical safety, but I could find little online info about exactly what an “explosive polymerization” really was. I’m sure whoever puts those words on warning labels doesn’t really count on the OMG-that-sounds-awesome-how-do-I-do-it? reaction, but apparently I am not the only one who had it.

This video is by Adrian McLaughlin, aka YouTuber plasticraincoat1. In it, what appears to be about 1/2 tsp of p-nitroanline (which is short for para-nitroaniline, which is also called 4-nitroaniline) is treated with a few drops of concentrated sulfuric acid, in a ceramic dish, over a Bunsen burner flame.  About 50 seconds later, a reaction that certainly seems like it could be described as “explosive polymerization” occurs.  The good stuff starts around 1:20. [Thanks, Fred!]

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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