Thermite From An Etch A Sketch; Yes It Can Be Done!
Hi everyone! Welcome back, Cody’s Lab. So my friend Grant Thompson and the YouTube channel “What’s Inside” did a video on what’s inside an etch a sketch. Now, Grant Thompson’s part of the video was they attempted to make thermite using the aluminum powder contained within these. Because apperently they contain aluminum powder. Now, they weren’t able to get it to work and so Grant Thompson actually contacted me and asked if I could figure out a way to get it to work. So, lets break it open, and find out. [sound of shattering glass] That did it. Sort of… Okay I got it open. There, lets dump this out and see what we get. Looks like I’m going to have to sift all the broken glass out of it now. Remind me next time I do this not to shatter the glass Cause this is, you know, all over the place and actually I wasn’t able to get all the glass pieces out you can see little tiny bits of glass in here. Well anyway, Grant Thompson figured out that there were little plastic beads in here and that seems to be primarily what this is. I did a bit of research on my own and I found that the plastic beads are actually polystyrene and their purpose is to keep the aluminum from clumping. But you’re definitely not going to be able to make thermite using these plastic beads because plastic doesn’t… react with iron oxide making a thermite like reaction. So I’m going to have to find a way to get those beads out of there, and my, this aluminum is sticky. I’m also thinking that maybe the aluminum has something coating it. Making it more sticky like this. It’s almost like an oil in fact. So my guess is it’s got like paraffin oil or something on there. So I’m gonna have to find something to remove the polystyrene beads and the coating on the aluminum. Now, what dissolves styrofoam, you know, polystyrene? Well, acetone. That almost looks like mercury now. Look at this. It might be kinda hard to pour off, ’cause look at how it’s like, floating. This might still work after all. ‘Cause I’ve noticed that the polystyrene didn’t actually dissolve, it just kinda got sticky and clumped together. So, I was easily able to pull out a blob of the plastic here. I think my gloves are melting too, so I probably should switch these out. But now, it looks like I’ve got aluminum powder floating on acetone. How about I filter it. That way, I’ll be able to capture the aluminum particles from most of the acetone, which potentially has bunches of stuff dissolved into it. We’ll then run through the filter. Well, at least the particle size of the aluminum is not small enough to go through this filter. That is really weird how that reacts. It’s like the aluminum powder works it’s way to the top of the acetone and gets stuck there. Then the acetone evaporates, I assume. So all the acetone dripped out, I’ve rinsed it a couple of times and now I’ve let it dry in the sun. And I’ve got some nice pieces of aluminum powder cake. Hopefully. So here’s some iron oxide And over there’s my aluminum. Let’s mix them together on top of this crucible and see if they’ll react. Little bit of iron… little bit of aluminum here Mix them together, roughly equal amounts by volume. It’s about right That looked promising. That’s a thermite reaction there. It’s not very good, though. Maybe if I got the mixture perfect, it would be better. You see, the idea behind thermite is that aluminum is the more reactive material than iron is. And so the aluminum steals away the oxygen atoms from the iron, leaving pure iron and oxidized aluminum. Well, copper is even less reactive than iron. So, it makes sense that if i were to use copper oxide the aluminum would actually strip away it’s oxygens more strongly than it even did from the iron. Let’s see what happens when I put a little bit of copper oxide this is black, cupric oxide in with the aluminum. Again, putting them together at about equal volumes. Now, I’m using a spoon, because the wind is blowing it all over the place. But now it should keep it together a little bit better. Let’s see if it will light. [cackles] It worked. That was a thermite reaction right there. And you noticed it went a lot faster because of the extra energy released. Now if I look at this closely, I should be able to see little beads of copper. Yeah, I’d say that’s some copper. Might have to go clean it up for you guys to see it, but there it is. Can you see the, uh, reddish color of the metallic copper? Some of you may have made the observation that I didn’t use all of the powder from the Etch-A-Sketch in that test. That was just a very small scale test to see if I could acutally get a reaction. But, since I’ve got this out, I may as well actually finish it off and see how big of a reaction I can make with this. Now, I’m not going to use the acetone exclusively like last time because that kind of made a mess. So this time I’ve wisened up a little bit, I’m gonna use a cheese cloth ’cause the holes in the cheese cloth are just small enough to keep the beads from going through, but the aluminum can’t. So let’s just pour this on here. And give this a shake to see if I can separate these plastic beads without using chemicals. And then of course I’ll wash the powder with acetone. To finish it. Eh.. it’s working. I still don’t think the recovery is very good, but at least this time I’m not going to have to deal with a bunch of sticky… fluid-ized plastic. Since the copper oxide did so well, I think I’m going to produce a bit more. So I have a piece of copper wire here and my little furnace is set for 1,600 degrees. So I’m gonna position this copper just inside of this and then we close the lid… so air will attack the copper when it’s really hot. But not quite molten, so the copper will actually oxidize, just like iron rusts. OK, the copper has been in here for over an hour Let’s pull it out of there and see what happens. And I think the best way to do this will be to grab it from underneath, cause the copper is going to be all nice and soft and squishy. Set it in the pan there. Now the uh… oxide is basically a ceramic, so it’ll just kinda flake off as the… yeah… the different, uh, thermal expansion rates. Just for giggles, I also put a copper penny in there as you can see. And, uh, that’s producing the copper oxide as well. And I contained this ’cause it was sending little pieces everywhere. Dum dun dunnnn… aaaaand.. there it is. I think I can extract a little bit more from the Etch-A-Sketch but… uh… Let’s call that half of what’s actually in there so there’s probably just about one gram of aluminum powder in that Etch-A-Sketch. That’s not very much, is it. But, hey, that is… reactive aluminum powder from a child’s toy. Now all I gotta do is weigh out the amount of copper that I need and it should make something interesting, yeah? So I figure I’m gonna need about two grams of this cupric oxide here. To get the reaction to go perfectly. There… close enough. Hey… there’s actually a piece of a penny right there. That’s cool. It’ll be slightly penny powered. Anyway, I’m just gonna mix these together loosely I don’t want to grind it up into a super fine powder, because that could actually become an explosive. I just want this to burn fast, I don’t want it to go “kaboom”. So there’s my copper thermite mixture and I’m actually going to set it off in the top of this well… bottom actually, of this tin can here. That way, I can see if it can melt through anything. Set it on this cast iron skillet. Gonna light it with my micro torch. Guys, it actually burned through this tin can I mean… that’s not much of a feat, but I think this is probably the first time anyone’s ever actually burned through something using an Etch-A-Sketch. That is amazing. Just about two and a half grams of the thermite, too. Ofcourse it’s gonna take quite a few Etch-A-Sketch’s to melt a lock, but I think we’re gonna do it. Hope you guys enjoyed, I’ll see you next time. [music]