Colloquially, I would imagine that the compound is known as "Oh, @#&!"
October 10, 2014 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Which is more dangerous: peroxide peroxide or flying at Mach 3.18 without a plane?

But seriously, chemistry sounds like it's a fun gig.
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:16 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I forget about that site and then someone links it and I get to read about scary chemistry again!
posted by curious nu at 6:19 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I tried subscribing to the just the 'things I won't work with' RSS, but they are very, very rare.
posted by pwnguin at 6:26 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

On the subject of horrifying peroxides, there's always TATP, which has the heartwarming nickname "Mother of Satan".
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:28 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

My brother, a GP, tells a story about a guy he saw a number of years ago. "Hey doc, have you heard about drinking hydrogen peroxide?" This guy was downing a tablespoon a night of the undiluted drugstore grade. 8% I think. I shudder to think of the people who decide to take it to the 'oh, @#&!' level.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:34 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Fun facts, according to Wikipedia:
"An accident involving an HTP* torpedo is believed to be the cause of the Kursk submarine disaster."

*High-test peroxide or HTP is a high (85 to 98 percent)-concentration solution of hydrogen peroxide
And the ME-163 fighter he mentions was apparently never flown by the Brits even though they snagged one, because they were terrified of it, except for a certain Capt Eric Brown who took one for a joyride. There are other terrifying tidbits:
The relative "closeness" to the pilot of some 120 litres (31.7 US gal) of the chemically active T-Stoff oxidizer [mostly HTP]...— besides the main oxidizer tank of some 1,040 litre (275 US gal) volume just behind the cockpit's rear wall, could present a serious or even fatal hazard to a pilot in a fuel-caused mishap with the Me 163B.
And the thing would regularly just set itself on fire sitting on the runway.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:36 PM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

For many more hypergolic, exerrgonic and downright boomtastic compounds, it's worth reading Ignition free pdf download a rollicking ride through the history of rocket propellants.
posted by lalochezia at 6:49 PM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I enjoyed Ignition even without a chemistry background. Now that I have a few more chem classes under my belt I should give it another read.
posted by curious nu at 6:54 PM on October 10, 2014

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:57 PM on October 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

Concentrated peroxide has a long history in rocketry, going back to the deeply alarming Me-163 fighter of World War II.

I love his Things I Wont Work With series of blogposts so. Goddamn. Much.

Also, that dude ages with grace.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:59 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

FOOF? That absolutely, can't be a good thing...
posted by Windopaene at 7:00 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

In grad school we did a lot of work on detection of TATP. So, that meant we had to synthesize small quantities. Being grad students, of course we tried to detonate it! Alas, we were never successful.

More terrifying was the cyanation reaction I had to do. Over a gram of sodium and copper cyanide in DMSO, a solvent that absorbs through the skin. In an open beaker I had to pour into another reaction vessel. And my advisor came through while I was making it, looked over my shoulder into the fume hood, and said "Smells like almonds!"

Never did that synthesis again.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:16 PM on October 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

"Smells like almonds!" posted by Existential Dread

posted by BungaDunga at 7:17 PM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Instead of being locked in a self-storage unit with two rabid wolverines, why not three? Instead of having two liters of pyridine poured down your trousers, why not three? And so on - it's a liberating thought.

Yes, liberating.
posted by arcticseal at 7:21 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

FOOF works great as a oxidizer. For an extra boost to your rocket, pair it with dimethylmercury.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:23 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I had only the dimmest idea of what he was talking about, and yet somehow I still loved reading nearly every word of this.
posted by drivelmeister at 7:27 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

But seriously, chemistry sounds like it's a fun gig.

It sounds as though it can be a fast-moving profession.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:45 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

It sounds as though it can be a fast-moving profession.

One that can take you in a lot of different directions.
posted by kenko at 8:29 PM on October 10, 2014 [22 favorites]

One of the things I enjoyed about being the token chemist in a group of biologists was sending out the periodic "Hydrogen peroxide continues to not be a strong acid or an organic compound - please return the bottle to it's own little secondary containment vessel - the plastic beaker labeled H2O2 on the top shelf." e-mail.

I especially enjoyed finding all the ingredients for TATP in the same plastic tray in the hood and, when I went to send out the "This is a really bad idea" e-mail found that my corporate masters were blocking the link to the wikipedia page.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:39 PM on October 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

BungaDunga: "Capt Eric Brown who took one for a joyride."

Eric Brown was a certifiable badass, IMHO. He flew so damn many of those captured German and other aircraft. I have a DVD somewhere where he says that he always felt OK flying the planes except for the ME-163. He said something to the effect of that he always felt that the ME-163 was continuously a step or two ahead of him, and he had to do his damnedest to keep up.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:57 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

From one of the links here to another of his writeups:

if you feel like whipping up a batch of Satan's kimchi, go right ahead.

Dude writes like Mark Twain reacted with Hawking then dissolved in some Seinfeld.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:02 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I am very glad that the high school "model rocketry club" guys I knew didn't learn of the existence of FOOF while we were still in high school. Thankfully the most successful thing they ever made was the thermite they demonstrated melting trough an engine block. I think they all decided it was a little too dangerous after one guy decided he'd save a step in the preparation of something he called "white powder" — By analogy to black powder I guess. Probably some kind of phosphorus compound. — by mortar and pestling two ingredients at the same time instead of separately as called for in the instructions. His eyebrows eventually grew back.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:03 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I stopped and giggled for a long time when I hit the bit about wolverines
posted by edheil at 9:15 PM on October 10, 2014

There's a great story online somewhere which I can't find right now, about a guy working in a space launch facility in French Guyana or something, fuelling satellites with peroxide, and having diarrhea inside his protection suit because he's in a bunker half a mile from any bathroom, in 40 degree heat... I wish I could find that.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:40 AM on October 11, 2014

Obligatory In The Pipeline link:
Sand Won't Save You This Time

posted by buzzv at 2:14 AM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Man, I wish I’d had this guy for a chemisty teacher when I was at school.

Or that I could write half as entertainingly as he can.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 3:13 AM on October 11, 2014

One of the Things I Won't Work With articles (I think it's the one on FOOF) links to the long, sad history of chemists trying to isolate fluorine, which includes at least two deaths, and success by Henri Mossian, who's lifespan was shortened by his work.
posted by JHarris at 5:40 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

For those of you just following the Things I Won't Work With tag, there are at least two other similar (though even lower-volume) tags: How Not To Do It, and Things I'm Glad I Don't Do.

I particularly recommend the comments on the How Not To Do It post where he makes an open call for anecdotes of destroyed lab stuff.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 4:33 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

peroxide peroxide

yo dawg...
posted by thelonius at 6:27 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

...lifespan was shortened by his work.
In six words, this is why I reversed course on my path to becoming an organic chemist.

Yes, some of this also could have been due to the fact that I witnessed people mouth-pipette benzene, THF, and pyridine.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:24 PM on October 11, 2014

The Me-163 wikipedia entry is worth reading after this one. Fascinating!

It occurs to me that modern-day acne treatments still either tend to involve salicylic acid (skin pads used more for cleansing and treating wide areas which tend to thin skin layers and cause acne to turn over and dry out more quickly and reduce inflammation like Aspirin) or benzoyl peroxide, which traditionally was more of an ointment / pin-point approach, though it would appear Proactiv has formulated full-facial cleanses intended to help deliver benzoyl peroxide to your pores. Traditionally (to me this means "early 1990's") benzoyl peroxide was applied to individual zits.

Now, peroxides of any sort are "anti-microbial" (just as much as they are destructive to surrounding tissue) but my suspicion is that when applied topically in sufficient concentration (2.5% is common but 5%-10% is more effective), the benzoyl peroxide essentially uses the compacted oil in an infected pore ("zit") as a fuel source much more rapidly than the bacteria can (and thus shortening the overall "life-span" of the zit) and creates a slow burning reaction, burning through to the bottom of the pore, consuming the bacteria's food source that would allow it to better proliferate to the rest of the skin on eruption, as well as destroying many of the free-floating bacteria and generating a bunch of heat / entropy / free radical in the process. Getting hit by peroxide as a bacterium is bad enough, but just being the presence of an ongoing hypergolic conflagration at the molecular level probably sucks too.

In other words, oxy turns zits into mini rocket boosters that then purge themselves. Perhaps too dramatic but the visual is enjoyable.

The more quickly you attack all of the zits, the less proliferation of bacteria on the surface of your skin and the healthier and less susceptible your skin is to infection (like mowing and taking care of your lawn allows it to better compete with weeds that would blemish it).

Zits naturally "turn over" after a certain amount of time and just "decrode" into a gross scab and dry pus core typically after they themselves have consumed the plugged-up oils within a pore. A teenage camping trip involving no showers and mirrors is a fun way to learn.

The more quickly you can make them all turn over, the less opportunity for infection...peroxide!
posted by aydeejones at 1:36 AM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I no longer have zits on my face, I have rocket boosters!
posted by arcticseal at 7:19 AM on October 12, 2014

And my advisor came through while I was making it, looked over my shoulder into the fume hood, and said "Smells like almonds!"

I once had a similar experience. Turns out I'm one of the people who can't smell hydrogen cyanide. Handy info.

Between that and the time I ran bromine gas through a rotovap, it's probably just as well I switched careers.
posted by solotoro at 11:14 AM on October 12, 2014

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