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Re: How can an oxygen tank explode?

Eric Lane wrote:
> How can an oxygen tank explode?

At 06:40 AM 6/14/01 -0400, Eugene Mosca wrote:
It can't, at least not without first pumping hydrogen or some other
combustible into the tank.

Oh yes it can explode.

I don't claim to know exactly what happened in the incident Eric read
about, but here is something that could well have happened, and fits the facts:

*) Person lights cigarette.
*) Oxygen turns smoldering cigarette into torch.
*) Cigarette is dropped, igniting upholstery.
*) Burning upholstery overheats oxygen cylinder.
*) Cylinder explodes.

The explosion is not due to a chemical reaction in the tank, but it is an
impressively violent explosion nevertheless. This adheres to definition
(1b) of the word "explode":

I realize that this scenario is only tangentially related to the published
account, but that doesn't worry me, because in my experience most published
accounts are only tangentially related to the facts.

BTW I think has lost sight of its charter. I always
thought that no matter how stupid you were, you didn't qualify for the
Darwin award if you had children who survived.


Returning to the land of physical fact: When my sisters were small, they
liked to play house with their dollies and their Kenner Easy-Bake
Oven. The latter was a small toy oven that really worked. It used a 100W
light bulb as the heat source. It could cook a two-inch diameter cake. It
was also just right for warming doll-baby-bottles.

One fine evening while we were all eating dinner there was a tremendous
BOOM. The toy oven was destroyed and there were bits of shrapnel throughout
the room.

It was not immediately clear how this had happened, but eventually we
pieced together the following:

The girls had improvised a supply of doll-sized baby bottles by gathering
up small empty CO2 cylinders that they found in the desert (presumably
dropped there by kids using CO2-powered rifles). These were just the right
size and just the right shape.

When the girls and been called to dinner, they had inadvertently left the
Kenner Easy-Bake Oven running, with one of the "baby bottles" inside. And
evidently this particular bottle hadn't been empty.

The overheated little gas cylinder had split open lengthwise and unfolded
into a heart shape that was only distantly related to the original
cylindrical shape. This was hard, thick metal, so the force required to do
that must have been tremendous.

A personal-sized oxygen bottle stores a couple of orders of magnitude more
mechanical energy, and can exhibit similar failure modes. It might be
interesting to find out more.... but I don't recommend it as a classroom