Mad Physics :: Experiments
Dry Ice Explosions

Introduction | Methods | Videos


In this lab we took everyday dry ice that we bought from the gracery store, and we created miniature bombs! As the solid CO2 turns into gas, it expands tremendously. If placed in a closed space the expansion could lead to explosion. WE don't recommend that you do this lab as it is danegrous, and please do not use these methods to hurt anyone or break the law. Mad Physics does not support any such behavior.

Dry ice is simply a general term—that is to say, not a scientific term—for carbon dioxide in its solid form. The term comes from the solid's ability to sublime under normal pressure. Sublimation is a process where a solid goes directly to a gaseous state without becomimg a liquid. This lead to the term 'dry ice' because as opposed to 'wet ice' (solid water) one never experiences the Carbon Dioxide as a liquid. The opposite of sublimation is deposition, an example would be the formation of frost.

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Since dry ice sublimes at 216K (-57ºC) it expands quite rapidly at room temperature, and therefore if kept in a small container, it can cause it to explode. We did various tests where we exploded small plastic bottles; however, we urge you NOT to do this at home. It is very dangerous and can lead to terrible injuries. If you don't believe us, here is an article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) talking about damage caused to the eye as a result of this experiment done poorly:

Ocular trauma caused by exploding glass bottles containing dry ice and water.

Anyway, despite all the perils we decided to give the lab a shot, but did use proper lab safety. We filled (platic) bottled half way with dry ice, and then we added water. We did not seal the bottle until we got outside and once we did... WE RAN! The bottles expanded and eventually blew up. Although we don't recommend that you do this lab, we have some advice for anyone so foolhardy. If the bottle doesn't blow, don't pick it up. Just throw something at it so it does blow up, or so the pressure gets released. Our first video shows a bottle getting hit with a basketball:

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If you have used any of this information or any of these images please go ahead and cite them in your bibliography. For your convenience, this is what the citation would look like in MLA format:

Family, Afrooz. “Dry Ice Explosions.” May 31, 2005 Mad Physics. dd mmm. yyyy


We are glad to share our knowledge with you as long as you cite all of our info, and contact us before you use anything for non-educational purposes (commercial, etc.).

† In the bibliography you must insert the day you visited the site (this is relevant because the site could change at some point), therefore, in the bibliography above replace dd with the day you visited, mmm with the abreviated month, and yyyy with the year (ex: dd mmm. yyyy becomes 23 Dec. 2004).

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