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Anarchy
06-22-2019, 02:22 PM
Hi there, I've got a itty bitty question here.
So, in a scene of my book, a character puts a candle flame to some hydrogen sulfate that has soaked a carpet. After researching, I'm still not too sure how the reaction would go. Would the hydrogen sulfate explode, would it burst into flame, or would it do something completely different?

Edit: I meant Hydrogen Sulfide. The one that smells like rotten eggs. I also had a 'dur' moment, because it's a gas. Now I have to figure out how big of a flame is needed to ignite it. Any suggestions or expertise would be helpful.

TellMeAStory
06-22-2019, 06:23 PM
H2S is highly flammable.

Al X.
06-22-2019, 06:48 PM
The bigger issue is how your character is going to survive the attempt. Hydrogen sulfide is flammable at concentrations of 4.3% to 46%, and is fatal at a concentration of 100 ppm, which is 0.01%. Even wearing a mask, your character is going to suffer some serious chemical burns at those concentrations.

MaeZe
06-23-2019, 05:30 AM
MSDS on hydrogen sulfide gas (https://www.airgas.com/msds/001029.pdf)

MSDS on hydrogen sulfide gas (https://www.trconsultinggroup.com/safety/msds/h2s.pdf)

There's always info you can glean from material safety data sheets.

Then there is NIOSH because it is a workplace hazard: Hydrogen Sulfide (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hydrogensulfide/default.html)

Anarchy
06-23-2019, 11:52 AM
The bigger issue is how your character is going to survive the attempt. Hydrogen sulfide is flammable at concentrations of 4.3% to 46%, and is fatal at a concentration of 100 ppm, which is 0.01%. Even wearing a mask, your character is going to suffer some serious chemical burns at those concentrations.

The character setting this up is a novice trap maker.
I've thought about it a bit and decided that it should be in a pressurized can. It's set inside of a house, taped behind a door. On the door, there is some sort of augmented spike. That's the part I haven't figured out yet. Should it be a sturdy stick that's gorilla glued to the door with a nail at the end of it? A walking cane? I'll figure that bit out, but the idea is the same.
Near the can is a lit candle that is hammered into a round-bottom wedge.
So, what should happen is this: The door opens with enough force for the augmented nail to puncture the pressurized can, which simultaniously makes the wedged candle rock over and hit the floor.
The person who set the rather rudimentary trap is a good distance away, and the person(s) opening the door will absolutely die.

Anarchy
06-23-2019, 11:55 AM
MSDS on hydrogen sulfide gas (https://www.airgas.com/msds/001029.pdf)

MSDS on hydrogen sulfide gas (https://www.trconsultinggroup.com/safety/msds/h2s.pdf)

There's always info you can glean from material safety data sheets.

Then there is NIOSH because it is a workplace hazard: Hydrogen Sulfide (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hydrogensulfide/default.html)

Thank you for that. I found this bit on there:
May cause respiratory irritation.
I'll need to look it up more, but I think that'll be a useful plot element. Conflict and consequences and all that.

Anarchy
06-23-2019, 01:12 PM
H2S is highly flammable.

Awesome, the scene called for something highly flammable. Now I need to know how big the resulting explosion/fire will be. I've tried to look up videos and whatnot, but I can't seem to get the specifics of how much damage it will do.
'The sound rang like thunder across the flat expanse and light, bright as hellfire, blinded her. It only lasted a breath. When the light and the thunder vanished, flames rose in their place.'
^If I said something to this effect, would it be too much? Would 'flames rose in the sky' be accurate, rather than detailing an explosion?
Scratching my head on this one. I'd hate to get this wrong.

Al X.
06-23-2019, 07:14 PM
Awesome, the scene called for something highly flammable. Now I need to know how big the resulting explosion/fire will be. I've tried to look up videos and whatnot, but I can't seem to get the specifics of how much damage it will do.
'The sound rang like thunder across the flat expanse and light, bright as hellfire, blinded her. It only lasted a breath. When the light and the thunder vanished, flames rose in their place.'
^If I said something to this effect, would it be too much? Would 'flames rose in the sky' be accurate, rather than detailing an explosion?
Scratching my head on this one. I'd hate to get this wrong.

Its toxicity is probably more lethal than the explosion, which would be a fireball without much concussion as it can't ignite until it mixes with air. If you really wanted a violent explosion from a compressed gas, compressed acetylene in a plain cylinder would do that, and all it would have to do is fall on the floor. Acetylene welding cylinders are filled with a carbon material to absorb small internal explosions caused by jarring, preventing the entire cylinder from detonating. Of course, filling and transporting the cylinder without killing yourself in the process would be difficult. As would filling a small cylinder of pure hydrogen sulfide gas. Where are you going to get it? The companies that sell it don't and won't sell it to individuals, they sell it to companies that use it for industrial purposes.

If I were a bad guy making an amateur bomb, I would personally opt for a pipe bomb, which can be made with some threaded steel tubing, end caps, and ground (powdered) fireworks propellant or model rocket engine propellant. An igniter would be an electric model rocket engine igniter, rigged to a battery and a contact closure device that closes when the door hits it. Dirt simple to make with easily obtainable materials, and relatively safe to the bomb maker.

Anarchy
06-24-2019, 06:16 PM
Its toxicity is probably more lethal than the explosion, which would be a fireball without much concussion as it can't ignite until it mixes with air. If you really wanted a violent explosion from a compressed gas, compressed acetylene in a plain cylinder would do that, and all it would have to do is fall on the floor. Acetylene welding cylinders are filled with a carbon material to absorb small internal explosions caused by jarring, preventing the entire cylinder from detonating. Of course, filling and transporting the cylinder without killing yourself in the process would be difficult. As would filling a small cylinder of pure hydrogen sulfide gas. Where are you going to get it? The companies that sell it don't and won't sell it to individuals, they sell it to companies that use it for industrial purposes.

If I were a bad guy making an amateur bomb, I would personally opt for a pipe bomb, which can be made with some threaded steel tubing, end caps, and ground (powdered) fireworks propellant or model rocket engine propellant. An igniter would be an electric model rocket engine igniter, rigged to a battery and a contact closure device that closes when the door hits it. Dirt simple to make with easily obtainable materials, and relatively safe to the bomb maker.

Wow, okay, thanks for the tip, you're an angel for suggesting the acetylene. I'll probably end up using that instead.
As to your questions, this is why I've chosen to set it up the way it's been set up:
It's one of the protagonists. A little backstory: former swamp hermit that's lived life in almost complete isolation with her mother. They're from a place called Pecan Island, LA, and she's never left the town until recently. If you look up PI, you'll notice very quickly that it's the epitome of isolated—the small town of small towns. Taking this into account, I figured that she would be a practiced trap-maker, given that most of their food would have been caught using things like gator and stranglehold snares. It's plausible that she's read books on making bombs, but I would have to think of a way for her to have acquired that sort of literature given the location she's in at that point in time.
The story starts out months after she's absorbed by her extended family, who do have access to industrial material. She found the can in a cellar stash (it was her uncle's at one point, who probably swiped it from one the plants belonging to their associates, though she doesn't know that.) The witch that is helping her is under the illusion that they're pulling a prank. He believes that he is going to make the victim smell like rotten eggs by taking the hydrogen in the air and transforming it into hydrogen sulfide (still struggling with the magic system here. I was never good with this stuff, as you can tell.) The protagonist will set the explosive trap, and when the witch goes to make the sulfide, an explosion will occur, thereby allowing the protagonist to pin the blame on the witch by making him believe that he screwed up and ignited the compound he made.

Now that I'm writing it all out, I think that you've got a very valid point. Given that the can would be so difficult to get outside of industrial sale, and given that I would have to do a whole bunch of explaining to make it feasible, a pipe bomb would be a more pragmatic approach. If the victim is less than ten feet away from a pipe bomb, would it be more realistic to say that they died, or that they were badly injured? Would the house around the victim catch on fire?
So long as the outcome is death for the victim and the house going up in flames, I'm open to all suggestions. Though, if pipe bombs explode to the point of leaving little to no evidence, I would have to change the entire sub-plot for this section of the story. With the can, it was found in the remains of the house, and that leaves a trail back to the protagonist's family, which is what I need for the plot. A pipe bomb could lead back to the protagonist, given that the shrapnel would be left around (as I understand it.)
I do apologize for the long-winded reply. I'm sure that you don't care to hear all of the nuances of this story, but I just want to make this as realistic as possible, despite the fantasy elements in it. I suppose I could just simplify the chapter by taking the witch out and just having the protagonist plant a pipe bomb, thereby eliminating the need to even mention sulfide or acetylene. It will mean that I will have to scrap the first half of the story again, but I'm glad that the mistakes are being caught before I'm 50,000 words in.

Al X.
06-24-2019, 06:37 PM
Hydrogen sulfide is the byproduct of anaerobic decomposition of organic material and sewage, and is typically found in sewage collection systems and enclosed underground spaces. The quantities can be high enough to be toxic, but not flammable. I -think- that industrially, it is produced at oil refineries as a byproduct of sulfur removal, and then concentrated and compressed by industrial gas suppliers.

A one inch steel pipe six inches long prepared as I described will be more than adequate to kill someone ten feet away. It would not necessarily send the house up in flames by itself, but that could easily be accomplished by leaving it sitting on a five gallon can of gasoline or having it in close proximity.

Want to trace it back to the family? Make the pipe be a relatively uncommon grade of stainless steel that could be used for pipe. 321 will work. The pipe section came from some stock from the family's industrial plant.

Anarchy
06-24-2019, 09:28 PM
You're the best. That'll work perfectly. Thank you for the help!

WeaselFire
06-25-2019, 12:21 AM
Ask any septic tank or sewage worker, you'll be dead long before the gas ignites. :)

Being trapped in a confined space with the gas is deadly. Actually, the first person trapped often survives, the guy who goes in to rescue him almost always dies. That's why rescue workers suit up with oxygen masks before hand.

You won't need a fire if you eject it into a confined space, it will kill without exploding. If you need to burn something down, use kerosene, gasoline or the like.

Jeff

Anarchy
06-27-2019, 05:35 AM
Hey, thanks for that tip. I've already revised three chapters to follow the pipe bomb, but I could see the character using a punctured tank (rigged to puncture when she's not around) in the future without using any sort of flame to make it go up. Maybe she'll have a nice bunker for a gas chamber.
In theory, sounds evil and stuff, but I'll stick to the pipe bomb for now considering my earlier lapse in judgement. Pipe bombs are easier to comprehend than chemicals, apparently.
But, kerosene and gas will most definitely be used in the future. It's funny; I look for a way to kill off characters and immediately work to develop the most unlikely scenarios, completely forgetting that simple things like gasoline exist. It's all very 'dur' in hindsight ��

Al X.
06-27-2019, 07:19 PM
Certainly you could rig a gas explosion if you wanted. If the house has gas service, just sever an internal supply line or unscrew it, and allow the gas to accumulate. Or if there is no service, leave a propane cylinder in the house and open the valve. Some sort of spark or flame device rigged to the door would send the house to the moon. The problem with that however, is that after some point in time, the gas is likely to ignite on its own due to sparking from an electrical appliance, pilot flame, etc... and if your target arrives too soon, it may not yet be a combustible mixture.

That is why I favor the pipe bomb solution, it is stable. I don't know how much in to the gory details you want to get, but here are some notes:

1. Use Schedule 40 stainless, not the thinner Schedule 10S for a more powerful explosion. You are probably going to have to cut and thread your own pipe section. But you have the tools if you have stockpiles of pipe.

2. You could use gunpowder as the explosive, but then you have to buy the gunpowder and that leaves a trail. That's why I favor a rocket or fireworks propellant. But, rocket propellant (and gunpowder too, by the way) does not detonate like an actual explosive, e.g. RDX, PETN, etc... so you have to grind it up in to a fine powder so it will explode within the confined pipe.

3. Igniter. I say use a model rocket igniter because it is off the shelf, but you could make an igniter by using a very small diameter wire and a sufficient electrical current. Commercial rocket igniter only require four "AA" batteries wired in series. You will have to drill a small hole in one of the end caps, insulate the wires of the igniter from the end cap and each other, and pot it in place somehow, like with epoxy. Now if you could score an electric blasting cap, that would be awesome, however, your Wal Mart solution will work just as effectively. You are going to run the wires through the hole in the cap so the loop section will be on the inside, pot it in place, then assemble the pipe with the ground propellant inside.

4. You want the bomb to trace back. If it were actually me, I would find a length of pipe from scrap, even though I could go to the hardware store and buy a pre-theaded spool section since the first thing the cops are going to do is canvas the local hardware stores. A purchase of a single six inch long spool section and two end caps looks pretty damned suspicious.