What happens when Mad Science meets Dry Ice? Find out in this mind-blowing compilation of 5 "super-cooled" science experiments.
Step 1: Watch the Video!
WARNING: Dry Ice is extremely cold! (-78C/-109F) and can cause instant frost-bite to exposed skin. Many of these demonstrations should only be attempted by professionals or skilled physics demonstrators. Misuse, or careless use may result in serious injury. Use of this video content is at your own risk.
Step 2: What Is Dry Ice?
"Dry Ice" is simply the solid form of Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
It's referred to as dry "Ice" because it looks like regular ice, even though it's about 5 times colder. And it's called "Dry" because it doesn't melt. It sublimates directly into a gas, so there is no mess to clean up with Dry Ice.
I get asked all the time where to get it, so I'm going to tell you.
If you're over 18, it might be as easy as going to your local grocery store.
Most of the big chain stores carry it, so just ask for it when you're checking out. It's as easy as that, and pretty cheap.
I also have a video on how to make it at home with a CO2 fire extinguisher, but that's going to be a lot more expensive.
Step 3: Cryogenic Napalm
For this experiment, I used a bottle of fuel line antifreeze because it’s 99% isopropyl alcohol.
Like other alcohols, this stuff has to get tremendously cold before it’ll freeze, so when chunks of dry ice are mixed in, the ice boils violently until the temperature cools down to around -109F/-78.5C.
At this point this is a makeshift "cryogenic napalm", so I tested to see what happened when a gummy worm gets dropped in the mix.
The sub zero slurry was so cold, it flash froze the worm completely solid in under 20 seconds.
In fact it’s was so hard that I tried hitting it with a hammer, and the whole thing shattered like it was made of glass. The sudden transformation really is incredible, and you might just have to break one to believe it.
Inspired by: Bill Beaty's famous video http://bit.ly/IBPoorManLN2
Step 4: Dry Ice Popsicle
Did you know you can use dry ice to make a popsicle?
Start by making a groove or an indentation in a slab of dry-ice about half an inch deep.
Now try balancing a popsicle stick in the center of the groove, then fill it up with your favorite drink. You’ll see that the instant it touches the dry ice, it will fog over with a misty white vapor.
Now because dry ice is only freezing the liquid from the bottom side, it’s going to take a few minutes for the cold to penetrate all the way through, so just sit back, and enjoy the magic happening right before your eyes.
In a little over 10 minutes, you should be able to give your popsicle a little wiggle and pull it out of the mold, but don’t lick it yet. This popsicle is about 5 times colder than normal and will stick to your tongue.
So dip it in a glass of water to warm it up a bit first, then sit back and enjoy your delicious homemade dry-icicle.
Step 5: Liquid CO2
We know that dry-ice is a solid that sublimates straight into a gas, right? But what if we could turn it into a liquid?
Liquid CO2 can’t actually exist in our atmosphere, but if we’re really really careful, there is a way we can see it in it’s liquid state.
I filled a special preform with a few pieces of dry ice and sealed it inside. The container began to pressurize immediately, and once the pressure got up around 75 pounds per square inch, an amazing thing began to happen.
The ice started to melt, and we were able to actually see what liquid carbon dioxide looks like.
Now it's important to note this experiment is extremely dangerous because as soon as the ice melts, the pressure can quickly rise to well over 1000 psi and blow the container.
Before mine exploded, I carefully released the pressure and removed the cap.
The liquid instantly transformed into dry-ice snow, and all the fluid suddenly disappeared.
Now to show why this demonstration is so risky, I put one of these containers in a cup filled with warm water, then got really really far away.
The explosion was powerful, and hopefully gives an idea of why this should only be attempted by professionals, if attempted at all.
Inspired by: CSChemistry video, “Formation of Liquid Carbon Dioxide” http://bit.ly/IBLiquidCO2
Step 6: Soul Sucking
Here’s one you can try at home.
Drop some dry ice into a container of warm water to get a thick vapor flowing, then lean in close, and suck in as quickly as you can.
If you do it right, it’s going to look really really cool.
The white smoke is safe to breathe because it’s just water vapor mixed with carbon dioxide. So go creep someone out with your new supernatural ability.
Now if you want to take it to the next level, try capturing all the gas in a balloon.
CO2 is what triggers your reflex to exhale, and if you try breathing it straight, it will force you to cough, tingle your insides and leave you feeling a little light headed.
Step 7: Grilling Magnesium
For this next experiment I got out in the open, far away from anything flammable.
I drilled a hole into a slab of dry ice for a coiled strand of magnesium ribbon.
When the magnesium is lit with a blow torch, dropped down in the hole, and sealed with another slab of dry ice, it creates a vicious reaction that burns brighter than the sun.
This was enough to light up my yard in the middle of the night.
Now the crazy thing about this is carbon dioxide usually puts out fires because it starves the fire of oxygen. But in this reaction the magnesium is so hungry for it, that it rips oxygen right out of the frozen CO2, and leaves behind a pile of black and white ash.
The remains are mostly Magnesium Oxide, but the black ash contains a lot of elemental carbon, which, interestingly enough, is the same stuff you use for grilling.
Inspired by: Theo Gray (Mad Science) http://bit.ly/IBLiquidCO2