Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Lithium Bomb

cat milk funny product sign failIn a recent incarnation, I was a teenage public schoolboy, one of a group. Now, when enquiring young minds have time on their naughty little hands, the devil finds work and we were indeed a rich seam of Satanic employment opportunities. Once we had set up an experiment at about 3 in the morning in the physics lecture theatre and were busy successfully synthesizing and condensing amyl nitrate when pressure built up in the reaction vessel and the glass safety stopper rocketed skywards, breaking the 6 foot fluorescent light above. Debris fell everywhere, we panicked and ran (having turned off the gas) leaving a scene of devastation for the lab assistants to find in the morning. Nothing was ever said.
But what seems to have stuck in the minds of the co-conspirators at the reunion last Saturday were the Lithium bombs. Lithium (Li) is a highly reactive Group 1 metal that demonstrates a vigorous reaction with any acid, for example 12 molar (nasty) nitric acid (HNO3).
schoolboy chemistry experiment lithium 12 molar nitric acid bombSo we purchased some 100ml plastic medication bottles from the local pharmacy and got some clingfilm from the young ladies who lived over the cafeteria. Then, using Special Nocturnal Requisition Form #23 (laboratory master key I'd made myself using a micro-file) we signed out the acid and some lithium, which came in the form of little chipolatas kept in oil so they didn't spontaneously catch fire.
If you place a disc of lithium in the lid of the bottle, separated from the acid using the clingfilm membrane, and drive a nail outwards through the lid, the device can be quite stable. Then you go out to the woods, push the nail against a tree, and throw the holy hand grenade. The number of the counting is definitely not 5, it is zero. The nail-head pushes the lithium disc through the protective membrane into the acid, which eats through the oil layer, and starts on the metal. It glows hot and brightly as the reaction accelerates, the metal melts and the whole lot goes at once in a deafening crack, spraying hot acid and one lucky nail everywhere.
So having proved the technology, we sold some to the Lower 6th form (that beer money doesn't grow on trees, you know) and they set them off during end-of-term shenanigans. I'd stored one in an anonymous locker by the gym, must have screwed the top on too tight and ruptured the membrane because later that day, it blew the door off and the PE teacher had to use a fire extinguisher on the caustic, smouldering locker. Nothing was ever said about that, either. Ho Hum.
At school today we visited Giant Tesco to see how food is produced, and to learn about making healthy sandwiches.
fratton station westbound platformWe walked to the train station via my old nursery where a suspected pigeon crapped on my arm and I had to be given a tissue to wipe it with. The teacher laughed and the rest of my class wouldn't stop going on about it until they were threatened with being grounded. We finally took the train for one stop, and investigated the bakery. The ovens do 225°C and can fit 3 kids each.
I wasn't allowed to take a picture in the bakery in case the flash made the staff put the wrong number of chocolate chips in the lunch rolls. We used tiger bread to make bespoke sandwiches, Grace Wolverine did one that was 8 layers high because she loves lettuce. As part of the "Farm to Fork" education, we all made a little roll and baked it ourselves. This is why I didn't eat my lunch. In a flash of Reverso-Karma, my lunch tomorrow is my own bread roll with Tesco pate, meat and cucumber.

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