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Pyrotechnic Projects: Negative-X: Start A Fire With Water

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Here's an old formula called "Negative-X" (I have no idea why), but I'm sure it's known by other names. Mix the powders together, pour it in a small pile and put a drop of water on it. In about a second, it will bubble and smoke and instantly burst into a blue-green flame.

"NEGATIVE-X"

Ammonium Nitrate

28 %

Ammonium Chloride

3 %

Zinc Dust

69 %

Comments:

Grind the Ammonium Nitrate and the Ammonium Chloride together in a mortar & pestle until they are a fine powder. Add the proper amount of Zinc Dust and mix well.Note that as soon as this is mixed, it becomes very water sensitive! Even a tiny amount of water will ignite the mixture. You must use this composition immediately after it is made - DO NOT STORE IT for any length of time, and do not mix it with other chemicals. It's a good idea to mix this formula & conduct this experiment outside. Take about a teaspoon full of the mixture and make a small pile of it on the ground. Add a drop of water and quickly stand back. In a second it will bubble, hiss and smoke, and instantly burst into a blue-green flame. If you're really bored, you can make a few piles of Negative-X on the ground and try and hit them with a water pistol from a distance away. WARNING Don't store this stuff, use all that you make each time. Eventually, (depending on how humid it is where you are) it will absorb enough moisture from the air (or whatever else it is touching) and ignite itself without warning!

This is NOT something you want to mix on a rainy day.

Here's the chemical reaction that takes place:

  1. Cl- (from NH4CL) acts as a catalyst on the decomposition of NH4NO3:
    • Cl - NH4NO3-----------------> N2O(g) + 2 (H2O)(aq) 2. Water in the reaction
  2. Water in the reaction causes the decomposition of more NH4NO3, which is an autocatalytic effect.3. The reaction melts the NH4NO3 and allows the oxidation of the zinc. The overall reaction is:
    • Zn (s) + NH4NO3 (s)------> N2 (g) + ZnO (s) + 2 (H2O) (g)