Introduction: Make a Test Tube Thunderstorm!!!

In this cool science experiment we make a thunderstorm in a test tube using alcohol, sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate.

WARNING:This experiment is extremely dangerous as it involves corrosive acids and flammable liquids with a small, but not negligible, chance of a damaging explosion. Face shields, goggles, fire extinguishers and fire safety protocols must be present. This should only be attempted by an experienced chemist.

Just get a test tube of 95% alcohol and carefully pipette a layer in a bottom of sulfuric acid. Then drop in some potassium permanganate crystals. It takes a minute or two to start up.

The reaction of the permanganate and the sulfuric acid produce manganese heptoxide that explodes on contact with organic matter like the alcohol. This also works with acetone.

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themattar (author)2015-08-09

ZOINKS ! dude manganese heptoxide is a high explosive!!! in my opinion way more unstable than glyceryl trinitrate(since it is a crazy reactivate oxidizer, and shock sensitive primary)!!! I've managed to get several grams to undergo the deflagration to detonation transition. there are also lot of stoopid people on the interwebs, who I'm sure may consider scaling it up to hundreds of grams. I'm not sure giving them this info is a good idea. having said that, nice instructable!

abell21 (author)2012-02-18

This is a fun demo to do - the problem I had was when I went to dispose of it - a 250ml measuring cylinder half full. I used methanol, as it was cheaper. As long as the alcohol on top was deeper than the explosions, it was good, but when I tipped it, the alcohol layer thinned, ignited, and blew a fireball out. After returning to the vertical, I tried to kill it with water - that caused the acid to boil, and more little explosions. in the end i dumped it into a large stainless sink and waited for the burning to stop :)
You live and learn. Usually.
Now, I work backwards - think disposal first, and have everything thought out and planned before I grab chemicals.

mary.c.oldfield (author)abell212015-03-10

How to safely dispose of the demo: Tip: use ETHANOL. Methanol vapors travel and easily ignite.

These are the instructions we use for disposal:
To safely dispose of the reaction an excess of permanganate may be placed in the
flask until the reaction has caused the complete mixing of the acid and
ethanol, making no further reaction possible. Please do not try to mix the two
by stirring or shaking the flask as this can cause an explosive reaction via
the ignition of the remaining ethanol. Also note that the flask and its
contents are extremely hot and may burn you. Additionally the remaining product
is still acidic and corrosive so please use proper caution and safety
procedure. After the reaction has finished use a test tube clamp to dump the
contents of the flask into a properly marked waste container and rinse with
distilled water.

sokamiwohali (author)2012-01-11

cool cool.. thanks for sharing!

trilo3000 (author)2011-09-15

also would changing the variables like how much potassium permanganate is used change the out come? im trying to find a way to create a variable for different hypothesis for a science fair experiment,

trilo3000 (author)2011-09-15

where can you purchase the crystals? or would this be suitable

mashedpotato13 (author)2011-02-12

Should this be called 'Firecrackers in a test tube'?

jyeomans (author)2009-08-21

I'm glad there are science herds like you to conduct cool experiments like this for the rest of us! I'll heed your warning and just watch the video.

yeolddingdong (author)jyeomans2010-11-26

how to get sulfrc acid?

casey321b (author)jyeomans2009-09-06

i wont... :D

hg341 (author)2009-08-21

are you layering it alcohol on bottom or sulfuric acid bottom

Kiteman (author)hg3412009-08-23

Sulphuric acid at the bottom - the thin pipette reaches to the bottom of the tube before the acid is injected.

hg341 (author)Kiteman2009-08-23

now i just need to watch there vids on makeing Potassium Permanganate

Kiteman (author)2009-08-23


Blackice504 (author)2009-08-21

That was a really intresting effect. Thanks for another great video.

About This Instructable




Bio: NurdRage is a dedicate group of science nerds trying to further amateur science with direct how-to instructions in video format. We saw what was already ... More »
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