View Full Version : Help for explosive/ blinding chemical reactions!

10-14-2010, 03:53 AM
I'm currently rewriting a novel with a tight deadline and looking for a way for a character locked in cell to overcome her guard. She has a childhood science geek background so my thought was that she might be able combine elements in the environment - cleaning fluids, for example - to make something which could blind/ explode? The cell she is being kept in is a converted wine cellar in a New Orleans villa, though this could be adapted.

If any chemically inclined and educated folks had suggestions as to 'household' or naturally occurring substances which might fit the bill I'd be very grateful.

Thanks in advance


10-14-2010, 04:16 AM
Flash bomb comes to mind first. Magnesium is best but might be difficult to realistically come up with.


This video looks pretty plausible to pull off, and at least demonstrates a way to get the bomb to activate. All you need is to be creative. Matches could be on the door, for example, so when it opens...

Different ways to make the flash powder:


The other options I'm thinking of are an extremely loud bang or a smoke bomb. Some more creative googling could turn up ideas for that.

10-14-2010, 04:25 AM
Ah! Speaking of smoke bomb. Another thing that comes to mind is mixing bleach and ammonia. Trouble is, she is way more at risk of taking most of the damage or all of it. Interesting part is that apparently if you use greater amounts of bleach than ammonia, or vice versa, it can become volatile and explosive. If there was a way to make that also give off smoke to cloud up the room, then it could work well so she could escape while the guard is also trying to escape the toxic death room. Her up side would be knowing it would happen, but the gas would still hurt her, too, so it would have to be carefully played. Risk is very high he'd just run off and lock her in the room with it.

10-14-2010, 04:27 AM
"Converted wine cellar" - converted into what? Storage cupboard? Do the villa's owners have any hobbies which might involve chemicals (paint, turpentine)?

If there's still wine there, the alcohol sting might be sufficient to distract a guard if the character threw wine in the guard's face. Same for any cleaning fluid. Bleach would be nasty.

10-14-2010, 05:15 AM
Actually, if there's still wine in the cellar, a sealed wine bottle makes a pretty good club... but then again, when you set up a cell with intent to hold someone there, you tend to take all the remotely dangerous stuff out.

10-14-2010, 06:17 AM
As Carlavii says, anything dangerous would be removed. But with a bit of bleach, a prisoner can produce some wonderful stuff. Because human urine produces ammonia. Since she has some scientific background, she can figure out how to evaporate the water out of the urine, leaving her with a stronger concentration of ammonia. Then you work with the basic formulations at BBC - h2g2 - The Dangers of Mixing Bleach and Ammonia - A795611 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/classic/A795611). Result can be anything you want.

All of these things are unstable and unpredictable, especially in her situation. If I remember right, chlorine gas is heavier than air, but if you change where she's locked up from the basement to an attic, you solve that problem.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

10-14-2010, 06:23 AM
Please, please please, do not mix bleach and ammonia at home in the interest researching your story. The fumes kill very quickly. Just don't do it.
Take care.

Tsu Dho Nimh
10-14-2010, 07:04 AM
Does she have electricity and a lamp with some wire?

Strip the wire out a bit and wedge the wires into the carpet where someone needs to step

Pour pee on the carpet.

When the guard comes to check, flip the switch.
With any luck, you will electrocute them. Or blow the fuses and escape in the darkness.

10-14-2010, 08:03 AM
If you have access to tincture of iodine and ammonia, you might be able to make nitrogen triiodide. It's an extremely shock-sensitive compound that, once dry, will explode with so much as a strong breeze. I'm not sure if it would actually work, because the information I've seen calls for using pure I2 and anhydrous ammonia. I don't know what effect the alcohol, salts, etc. would have on it.

10-14-2010, 10:08 AM
I haven't had high school science in a while, but as far as I remember --

Karo Syrup
Saltpeter (can be made with ammonia(urine) and lye(potash))

add them together; heat them up, and you get model rocket fuel :-)

10-14-2010, 01:18 PM
If this is New Orleans recently, she might be able to find some sea salt deposits inside the basement, left from Hurricane Katrina. With water and a source of electricity, she could get magnesium from the salts.

Though, if she had electricity and water and a bit of salt, she could take care of him like Dennis Quaid's character in Frequency. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhegUvIMIvE&) at 5:40 on the link.

But, in case you don't get youtube. He uses some wire to rig up the metal door and a puddle of coffee so that when the villain walks into the room, gets enough voltage to put him down hard.

10-14-2010, 04:48 PM
Many thanks everybody. A good range of smart suggestions. The time available to my character isn't very great, but I'm sure I can use one or more of these. The cell is more of an ad hoc arrangement so its conceivable that cleaning products could be in there...

10-14-2010, 05:19 PM
Nitric acid (used to clean stainless steel) + sulphuric acid (strong cleaner) + household fibres = Gun cotton (http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/The_Household_Cyclopedia_of_General_Information/guncotton_cfc.html).

10-15-2010, 09:44 PM
Given the rather limited tools available in such a situation and the rather high required precision to manufacture explosive substances, i'd say the best way of action, and what someone with chemical knowledge probably would do is to actually just find the most aggressive chemical available and throw it at the targets faces. Maybe conentrate it a little before use, depending on the substance. But just normal drain cleaner in the face will do a good job as improvised pepper spray replacement, and if there's some sulphuric acid (from a car battery for example) which could be boiled down to high concentrations, it could even cause lethal chemical burns.
Note: do not try at home. Do not boil bleach! You don't increase the concentration of chlorine, you evaporate it and get toxic fumes. Unless it's chlorine free organic bleach in which case you probably just get a mess.

10-18-2010, 02:00 AM
I remember reading somewhere that metholated spirits or turps would fuse a contact lens to an eye if they got in there. but i dont know how accurate that is. It sure as hell put me off art class anyway.