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  #1  
Old 13-01-2019, 10:21 AM
gary
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Cool Chlorine trifluoride - the hypergolic that even sets asbestos on fire on contact

Thank you to friend and fellow engineer, LW, who directed me to this
enlightening and humorous commentary by Derek Lowe
on the
Science Magazine blog site which was posted over a decade ago
on 26 February 2008.

In a brief essay entitled "Sand Won't Save You This Time", Lowe
elucidates on the quirkiness of the compound chlorine trifluoride.

A poisonous gas which condenses into a liquid at 11.5C, it is, to say
the least, a particularly reactive reagent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Derek Lowe, Science Magazine
The compound also a stronger oxidizing agent than oxygen itself, which also puts it into rare territory. That means that it can potentially go on to “burn” things that you would normally consider already burnt to hell and gone, and a practical consequence of that is that it’ll start roaring reactions with things like bricks and asbestos tile. It’s been used in the semiconductor industry to clean oxides off of surfaces, at which activity it no doubt excels.
A hypergolic, it will instantly and violently ignite just about
anything, without an ignition source, including glass, plexiglass,
asbestos, water, fabrics, concrete and gas masks.

During such reactions it will often violently explode.

Exposure to larger amounts of it, as a gas or liquid, ignites living tissue.

Throw sand on it - a sure way of putting out a lot of fires - and the sand
will catch on fire.

Douse it with water and not only do you get a violent reaction but
clouds of hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acid.

Derek Lowe in his essay also cites a passage from the book
"Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants" by
John Drury Clark, who as an engineer developed liquid propellants
at the Naval Air Rocket Test Station in New Jersey between 1949
and 1970 and who had first hand experience with this stuff.

The blog is worth reading for the quote from Clark alone.

Derek Lowe blog on chlorine trifluoride here :-
https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipelin..._you_this_time

Wikipedia page on chlorine trifluoride here :-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorine_trifluoride

Wikipedia page on rocket fuel engineer, chemist and science fiction writer
John Drury Clark here :-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Drury_Clark

The book ""Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants"
now in print again and available on Amazon here :-
https://www.amazon.com/Ignition-info.../dp/0813507251

A scanned PDF archive (copyright violation) of the 1972 book here :-
https://library.sciencemadness.org/l...s/ignition.pdf

YouTube video (1m41s) from 2012 made by French scientists
demonstrating what happens when chlorine triflouride comes into
contact with most things you would hope would protect you in a lab, like
plexiglass and gas masks :-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4l56AfUTnQ
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  #2  
Old 13-01-2019, 10:40 AM
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Stonius (Markus)
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So is it any good for cleaning optics?
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  #3  
Old 13-01-2019, 10:57 AM
gary
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonius View Post
So is it any good for cleaning optics?


Hi Markus,

It will completely remove the pesky glass of the optics away,
providing an uninterrupted view of the heavens.

However, burning at a temperature of 2400C it is likely to also
spontaneously ignite the observer's eyeball before burrowing
through to the brain causing it to explode like a personal supernova.

Probably safest to have a friend test it first.
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  #4  
Old 13-01-2019, 11:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gary View Post


Hi Markus,

It will completely remove the pesky glass of the optics away,
providing an uninterrupted view of the heavens.

However, burning at a temperature of 2400C it is likely to also
spontaneously ignite the observer's eyeball before burrowing
through to the brain causing it to explode like a personal supernova.

Probably safest to have a friend test it first.
"Chlorine Triflouride Optical Cleaner - you'll see stars like never before!"
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  #5  
Old 13-01-2019, 11:18 AM
gary
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Hi Markus,



Love the "I tried it at home" meme! Hadn't seen that before. That's fabulous!
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  #6  
Old 13-01-2019, 12:43 PM
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Thanks for the links Gary. Still reading through a lot of the stuff since you've posted. I had no idea how rocket functioned. I thought it was just burning stuff but it's more like a "controlled" chemical reaction. Some goodies in that 1972 edition PDF download.

Quote:
Came the day of the first trial. The propellants were hydrazine and WFNA. We were all gathered around waiting for the balloon to go up, when Uncle Milty warned, "Hold it—the acid valve is leaking!"
"Go ahead —fire anyway!" Paul ordered.
I looked around and signaled to my own gang, and we started back- ing gently away, like so many cats with wet feet. Howard Streim opened his mouth to protest, but as he said later, "I saw that dog- eating grin on Doc's face and shut it again," and somebody pushed the button. There was a little flicker of yellow flame, and then a bril- liant blue-white flash and an ear-splitting crack. The lid to the chamber went through the ceiling (we found it in the attic some weeks later), the viewports vanished, and some forty pounds of high-grade optical glass was reduced to a fine powder before I could blink.
I clasped both hands over my mouth and staggered out of the lab, to collapse on the lawn and laugh myself sick, and Paul stalked out in a huff. When I tottered weakly back into the lab some hours later I found that my gang had sawed out, carried away, and carefully lost, some four feet from the middle of the table on which the gadget had rested, so that Paul's STIDA could never, never, never be reassembled, in our lab.
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  #7  
Old 13-01-2019, 01:08 PM
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These are pretty good too.

Quote:
But then Pino, in 1949, made a discovery that can fairly be de- scribed as revolting.

...

It was hypergolic with mixed acid, and it had a rather high density for a fuel. And it wasn't corrosive. But its performance was below that of a straight hydro- carbon, and its odor — ! Well, its odor was something to consider. Intense, pervasive and penetrating, and resembling the stink of an enraged skunk, but surpassing, by far, the best efforts of the most vigorous specimen of Mephitis mephitis. It also clings to the clothes and the skin. But rocketeers are a hardy breed, and the stuff was duly and successfully fired

...

The odor of these was not so much skunk-like as garlicky, the epitome and concentrate of all the back doors of all the bad Greek restaurants in all the world. And finally he surpassed himself with something that had a dimethylamino group attached to a mercaptan sulfur, and whose odor can't, with all the resources of the English language, even be described. It also drew flies. This was too much, even for Pino and his unregenerate crew, and they banished it to a hole in the ground another two hundred yards farther out into the tule marshes. Some months later, in the dead of night, they surreptitiously consigned it to the bottom of San Francisco Bay.
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  #8  
Old 13-01-2019, 04:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Drury Clark, "Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants" p 138
The trimethylammonium nitrate went just as easily — except for
one small detail. The highly volatile trimethylamine sticks tenaciously
to the skin and clothes, and smells like the Fulton Street fish market
on a hot Saturday morning (although some of us used a more earthy
comparison) and poor Roger Machinist, who had the job of making
the salt, was saluted, for some weeks, by people who held their noses
with one hand, pointed at him with the other, and shouted, "Unclean,
unclean!" We called that propellant "Minnie," for reasons which now
escape me.
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Old 13-01-2019, 04:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Drury Clark, "Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants" p 145
And then it let go, with an ear-splitting detonation. Through the
safety glass window we saw a huge red flare as the oil flashed into
flame, only to quench immediately as it hit the ice-cold concrete. We
cut everything off, and went out to survey the damage. The bomb had
fragmented; the burst disc just couldn't rupture fast enough. The
pressure pickup was wrecked, as was the stirrer. The cylindrical
stainless steel pot which had held the oil had been reshaped into something
that would have looked well under a bed. And the oil —it had
been old vacuum pump oil, black and filthy. It had hit the concrete
floor of the test area, the wall of the building, and everything else in
reach, and had cleverly converted itself (the temperature was well
below freezing) into something resembling road tar. I got on the
phone.
"Joe? You know that stuff you sent me to test for thermal stability?
Well, first, it hasn't got any. Second, you owe me a new bomb, a new
Wianco pickup, a new stirrer, and maybe a few more things I'll think
of later. And third (crescendo and fortissimo) you'll have a couple of
flunkies up here within fifteen minutes to clean up this ( — bleep — )
mess or I'll be down there with a rusty hacksaw blade. . . . " I specified
the anatomical use to which the saw blade would be put. End of
conversation.
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  #10  
Old 13-01-2019, 07:48 PM
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Derek Lowe has another excellent article on Dioxygen Difluoride which is similar to Chlorine Trifluoride:

https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipelin...gen_difluoride
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Old 13-01-2019, 08:52 PM
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Tree clearing.

Quote:
But detonation traps aren't always the complete answer. We dis- covered that when, in the summer of 1960, we tried to fire a 10,000- pound thrust Cavea B motor. We didn't have Mike's trap at that time, so we inserted a battery of sixteen 0.25-inch loop traps in the line. Well, through a combination of this and that, the motor blew on startup. We never discovered whether or not the traps worked —we couldn't find enough fragments to find out. The fragments from the injector just short-circuited the traps, smashed into the tank, and set off the 200 pounds of propellant in that. (Each pound of propellant had more available energy than two pounds of TNT.) I never saw such a mess. The walls of the test cell—two feet of concrete—went out, and the roof came in. The motor itself—a heavy, workhorse job of solid copper— went about 600 feet down range. And a six-foot square of armor plate sailed into the woods, cutting off a few trees at the root, smashing a granite boulder, bouncing into the air and slicing off a few treetops, and finally coming to rest some 1400 feet from where it started. The woods looked as though a stampeding herd of wild ele- phants had been through.*
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Old 14-01-2019, 05:40 AM
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Will following a few of those links guarantee a body cavity search next time I go through US Customs?
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Old 14-01-2019, 06:00 AM
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Will following a few of those links guarantee a body cavity search next time I go through US Customs?
As long as the officer is not an ex rocket scientist and the latex gloves used haven't come in contact with anything that has a PH lower than 3 you'll be alright.
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Old 14-01-2019, 06:23 AM
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As long as the officer is not an ex rocket scientist and the latex gloves used haven't come in contact with anything that has a PH lower than 3 you'll be alright.
Whew! That's good
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Old 17-01-2019, 06:59 PM
Wavytone (Nick)
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There’s a test lab I saw northwest of Sydney decades ago which had a series of concrete bunker test labs for explosive materials - but one difference - they were underground in case of exactly that sort of thing.

Not sure if it’s still there - probably has been ploughed under for housing by now or buried under a motorway.

Last edited by Wavytone; 18-01-2019 at 04:55 PM.
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