Fun With Flammable Household Materials
September 8, 2009 4:29 PM   Subscribe

Cremora Explosion (courtesy of Mythbusters). Almost any fine, flammable material will make a nice fireball if ignited while dispersed. (for example: grain elevator explosions.) Mythbusters, as usual, take it to another level. Bonus: How to make your own. posted by empath (35 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Please don't try this at home.

Unless you film it and put it on youtube.
posted by empath at 4:30 PM on September 8, 2009

This is why I drink my coffee black.
posted by dortmunder at 4:39 PM on September 8, 2009

On a more serious note, thirteen people died in a sugar refinery explosion in Georgia last year. So, dust explosions are not always awesome.
posted by dortmunder at 4:43 PM on September 8, 2009

When that grain elevator exploded in Halifax, I was living two blocks away from it.

It was quite the kaboom.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:51 PM on September 8, 2009

qv "sparkler bomb" (boom) and "sparkler fountain" (whoosh)
posted by nonspecialist at 4:57 PM on September 8, 2009

When I learned of grain elevator explosions, as a child in a tiny midwestern town, I lived in fear every time I passed the toweringly high elevators in the center of town. In fact, they built new, even taller ones while I was there and it blew my mind. I'd never seen anything so tall. And potentially explosive.
posted by DU at 5:15 PM on September 8, 2009

This was a regular high school activity at the post-keggar late-night Denny's sober-up breakfast. Pack like ten non-dairy creamer packages into several spliced together straws and blow it out over a lighter. Until "The Curtains" incident.
posted by tkchrist at 5:31 PM on September 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

How To Make a Match Rocket
posted by LordSludge at 5:43 PM on September 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oh yes... We used to do this at parties back in the day at college. Learned about it in Chemistry class...
posted by ALvard at 5:55 PM on September 8, 2009

This is why I drink my coffee black.

I like my coffee like I like my women...

...bitter and full of milk.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:17 PM on September 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Incidentally, "Cremora Explosion" is the name of my new band.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:22 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hrm, I actually meant to post this match rocket.
posted by LordSludge at 6:23 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by caddis at 6:27 PM on September 8, 2009

LordSludge, forresttrenaman's match rockets may not work as well, but I love his style. It seems he's also done some great work with throwing cards and pop-pop boats (which I was not aware of). Can't stop watching. (NOW THE BLUE BOAT)
posted by pinespree at 6:34 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is the stuff that started me on a life of explosions, occasional murder, and illegal weaponry. Thanks coffee-drinkers!
posted by aramaic at 7:00 PM on September 8, 2009

Yeah, we did this, in miniature, at the bar. Step one: drop down to Steak'n'Shake for a bunch of powdered creamer packets. Step two:light Zippo, stand in ashtray on bar. STep three: dump creamer packet over flame from about 18 inches up. Step four: duck - the barmaid is throwing something at you.

Alternate Step Four: prepare for free drinks if the owner, Fred, is there and it's one of the days he thinks *everything* is awesome.
posted by notsnot at 7:06 PM on September 8, 2009

I think I started that myth back in the early eighties. I was a top of the line welder and daredevil back then, but I despised Cremora. So one day at lunch, when a guy was putting Cremora in his coffee, I told him that if you put that stuff under enough pressure and then struck a sharp blow on it with a hammer it would detonate.

Then about a year later the same story came back to me, along with the myth of the welder who had gotten his heart blown out of his chest cavity by a Bic lighter. That guy had a lighter in his shirt pocket and it was set off by molten weld spatter. So everyone went right to work on the lighter thing and found that if you balanced a Bic lighter just right, so that it was oblong vertical, and carefully lit the bottom corner (don’t try this at home because the flame is near invisible), it would go off like an M - 80.

I did it once, at a party, and the melted plastic part from the bottom ricocheted around and got into the hair of the only guy with perfect hair there. Just lucky, I guess.
posted by Huplescat at 7:18 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by Jon-o at 7:36 PM on September 8, 2009

How To Make a Match Rocket

Back when I was in high school, someone taught me a cool trick; take an empty 12 gram CO2 container (typically used for air pistols, etc) and bore out the end to make it as big as possible. This is made easy because the opening is actually made of much thinner material so as to be more readily pierced by the air-gun.

Anyway, once you have the opening big enough, start filling it with match heads. It will take quite a few books/ boxes but when full, if placed into a smooth tube or channel and ignited, it will hit with force similar to a shotgun slug.

The person who taught me this? My science teacher.

Man, the '80s were fun.

I'd say "don't try this at home" but lord knows that I did. So I'll instead caveat with "Use some common fucking sense. It's a steel rocket. Don't point it at anything you don't want to destroy by putting a good sized hole through."
posted by quin at 8:05 PM on September 8, 2009

There was a little diagram in last month's (or maybe the month before's) Wired magazine on how to make a DIY roman candle using Cremora and black powder. I haven't tried it yet, but it struck me as a pretty ballsy thing to include for a major publication.

Their design had you place a small charge of black powder (which they claimed was available from sporting good stores or gun shops, although I've only ever seen Pyrodex powder there, which is not actually true "black powder"—maybe it's close enough) at the bottom of a coffee can, with a short length of cannon fuse or something. Then on top of the powder went a round of tissue paper, and then a good amount of Cremora. The idea is that the black powder disperses the Cremora, but burns slowly enough when airborne that it ignites the creamer when it reaches optimal fuel/air ratio.

Interestingly, decades ago on Mr Wizard, I saw a "don't try this at home" demonstration involving a candle placed in some flour, in the bottom of a coffee can. (What are kids going to do for dangerous-experiment apparatus when there are no more steel coffee cans?) Then a small hose was placed from the can, aiming down into the flour, to where an experimenter blew into it from a few feet away. Their blowing into the tube created a cloud of flour dust, which was ignited by the candle, and produced a huge fireball. My father would never actually let me try it, but I always wanted to.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:26 PM on September 8, 2009

At first I thought cremora explosion was about cremains getting accidentally aerosolized and exploding from a stray spark.

quin - my HS chemistry teacher used to brag that "If I was a terrorist, I'd be able to so much more damage than they do and get away with it." We also did a similar thing with empty CO2 cartridges only with black powder or gunpowder gleaned from cheap fireworks.

They made rather decent pipe-bombs; unfortunately, this was discovered in the hands of an acquaintance when it got stuck in the tube that it was placed in.
posted by porpoise at 8:46 PM on September 8, 2009

Greg_Ace - Cremora Explosion - Kablooey of Dead People.
posted by porpoise at 8:49 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah ... I did the "fill up an orange juice can with matchheads" thing. I should see if that mark is still on the concrete.
posted by adipocere at 9:09 PM on September 8, 2009

I did the "fill up an orange juice can with matchheads" thing

It was always a tennis ball for me. Cut a slit in it, duct-tape it shut when full.

A huge box of wooden matches (2000, I think) was $2 at the Army surplus store.
posted by rokusan at 10:06 PM on September 8, 2009

Kadin, i looked for that video. It wasn't flour, it was lycopodium.
posted by empath at 12:47 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

In my day, we just used sawdust. My student house at Caltech had a long tradition of 40-foot-tall fiery mushroom clouds -- and for using appropriate safety precautions.

It looks like the Mythbusters were a bit too fuel-rich in their mix.

[Remember: combustible powders offer many ways to be stupid. Don't be stupid.]
posted by pfarner at 2:27 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by dg at 5:43 AM on September 9, 2009

Laser printer toner will do this too.
posted by tommasz at 6:48 AM on September 9, 2009

Seems like an aweful big waste of what could have been food for 2 seconds worth of TV footage.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:13 AM on September 9, 2009

Seems like an aweful big waste of what could have been food for 2 seconds worth of TV footage.

I'm pretty sure Cremora isn't food.
posted by empath at 9:52 AM on September 9, 2009

This is also a pretty safe way to "breath fire". Powder fuel is much safer than a liquid fuel, since it doesn't flash back and any residue on your face isn't flammable. I was actually doing that at a wedding last weekend with corn starch.

BTW be careful pouring a large amount of corn starch into your mouth. Because the stuff you don't spit into the flame quickly turns into that Non-Newtonian fluid in your mouth, and you will gag on it. Trust me.
I hear powdered sugar works as well, I should try that because at least it would taste better, and you're only left with a mouth full of glaze.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2009

I'm pretty sure Cremora isn't food.

No but the corn it's made out of is. That is unless it's turned into ethanol to fuel SUV's I suppose.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2009

I was a bit disappointed by the 'match-bomb' clip. I mean, they just set fire to a million match-heads, when we all know that in a proper match-bomb, it's all about the containment of the payload.

Anyone can set fire to shit..
posted by pompomtom at 9:18 PM on September 9, 2009

Match heads? I remember a story about a kid making rocket motors with match heads. I think he was carrying a jar of them down into the basement when he slipped and it fell and exploded sending a shard of glass into his little sister's neck and caused his sister to bleed to death in front of him. That story always freaked me out.
posted by caddis at 12:45 AM on September 10, 2009

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