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Incredible Chemical Reaction GIFs Explained

1) Disintegration (Mercury Reacts with Aluminum)

When aluminum rusts, it creates a protective oxide layer that prevents the aluminum atoms underneath from further rusting. That is, until mercury is applied. Mercury prevents an oxide layer from forming, making the rust reaction continue uncontrollably. The process isn’t as fast as what’s depicted in the GIF though; it actually took two hours to rust through the aluminum beam above. What isn’t depicted in the GIF is the sluffed off rust that formed a pile at the base of the aluminum beam as the reaction progressed.

2) Pharaoh’s Serpent (Mercury (II) Thiocyanate Reacts with Oxygen)

The reaction depicted above, nicknamed the “Pharoah’s Serpent,” actually use to be a common classroom demonstration. It also use to be sold in stores as fireworks until people realized it’s actually fairly toxic. As its name hints, it contains very poisonous mercury. Mercury (II) thiocyanate exists as a white solid that when heated, expands to become a brown solid due to its decomposition to carbon nitride. Sulfur dioxide and mercury (II) sulfide are also produced. Nowadays, if you want a similar effect but don’t want to risk touching mercury, you can try making a “Black Snake” by heating a mixture of sugar and baking soda in a beaker.

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