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Ok this is one of those fairly basic high school chemistry experiments designed not so much to help you learn chemistry, but rather have a chance to blow stuff up. I suppose you could go into the structural makeup of methyl alcohol and some electrical background stuff, but it’s a reach, especially because the reaction itself doesn't really help explain anything. You can use either Ethanol or Methanol, but the latter produces a larger explosion.

Materials:

  • Two-Liter Bottle (Empty)
  • Two 4" Nails
  • Hot Glue
  • Methanol/Ethanol (20 mL for each shot)
  • montecarlo says the suffix -ol in methanOL already implies "alcohol". So it's either "methanol" or "methyl alcohol", but never "methanol alcohol".
  • Multiple Corks that fit in the top of the bottle (number of corks = number of shots)
  • Either a high powered Tesla-Coil or Transformer (either must be able to produce a charge great enough to jump a spark gap)
  • note: rootbeer277 thankfully informed me to warn you all of the risks involved in a high powered transformer, please read all labels and warnings on the transformer before conducting this expirement.
  • Ring Stand or similar device to hold the bottle at an angle (unless you want to shoot the cork straight up)
  • Setup:

  • Poke the two nails through the middle of the bottle on opposite sides to each other until the points are roughly a centimeter apart inside the bottle.
  • Hot glue around the nails so that there is no way for air to escape.
  • Make sure the glue is dry and add the alcohol to the bottle, cork and shake vigorously.
  • The alcohol should all dissolve in the air of the bottle, if not you’ve added too much, but no worries, it will just either combust or stay in the bottom following the reaction.
  • Stand the bottle up at the angle you want the cork to shoot at (preferably not at anything you don’t want broken). You may also want to set up a blast shield just in case the nails are loose enough to come out.
  • Set up the tesla-coil/transformer in a circuit that causes a spark to form between the two nails. This will ignite the alcohol vapors inside the bottle, causing the cork to rocket from the bottle.
  • Conclusion:

    If you like explosions then this lab is a whole lot of fun to conduct, and it’s not really all that dangerous, unless you’re just plain careless. Although the transformer and alcohol might be a little hard to find, they’re well worth finding. Having a connection with a chemistry lab is a huge help.

    Oh and for those of you that are suckers for the details:

    CH3OH (s) + 3/2 O2(g) ==== CO2 (g)+ 2H2O (aq) It's a combustion reaction, YAY!

    Many thanks to those who helped me out with the chemical details

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