Old 05-22-2009, 04:48 AM #1
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Default Oxidizer for magnesium powder

I have just bought a pound of magnesium powder. The uses of this are limitless.

Anyway, I want an oxidizer that won't explode on contact. I'm thinking potassium permanganate or potassium nitrate, leaning a little bit towards permanganate. What do you think?

EDIT: Also, just a random question: Why do you never hear/see people setting off large amounts of flash powder? I've never really heard of more than a few grams at a time. The stuff's not too expensive, what's to prevent you from packing up a pound or two into a bottle/whatever, sealing it up, and lighting it with a really long fuse (then getting the hell out of there)?

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Old 05-22-2009, 05:46 AM #2
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KMNO4 (permang.) is not a good idea to mix with magnesium... it is extremely unstable and is likely to ignite and/or explode by itself.

Most don't make/use large amounts of flash powder because it can be extremely powerful and is also highly illegal without a license. I've seen 30g of proper flash blow a 3ft crater just lying on the ground, so I'm afraid of what an even larger amount would do. A "pound or two" would be insane (and stupid), since that would likely be a serious (I'm talking demolition serious) detonation.
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Old 05-22-2009, 06:09 AM #3
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DON'T DO THIS I'm a licenced pyro tech. I have manufactured all kinds of pyrotechnic mixtures and I'm tell you your treading on eeg shells here, I can send you some very graphic video of a couple guys who thought they know what they were doing, well both spent much time in the hospital and one of the guys wont be able to reproduce any more ! the stuf you are messing around with is very STATIC SENSITIVE and that's why these guys are missing fingers, skin, and other body parts. every time I have to mix up flash power to make salutes I can't wait till I'm finished, If you only knew what kind of can of whop ass you are opening you will seek the advice of a mentor. to go down this road with out a good guide you are asking for trouble. DON'T DO THIS ALONE you will lose! if you had mixed the Mg with the permag you would have prob had a bad accident.
my 2 cents worth hope it helps you.
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Old 05-22-2009, 06:17 AM #4
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Cool mess with the bad stuf

If you realy insist on travling down this road you should contact the PGI and ask about members in your area, they are very nice people and most important most know what they are doing. seek advice from the right people not at a laser forum the PGI has a web site.
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Old 05-22-2009, 08:54 AM #5
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I have made Mg flash powder with both and kno3 and Nh4no3, be carefull and make only a few grams at a time.
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Old 05-22-2009, 09:24 AM #6
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KMnO4 is not unstable. I think you may confuse this with KClO4, which in combination with sulphur or carbon or organic substances is indeed highly explosive and very unstable. Really, really, really stay away from that stuff.

Also, a substance is explosive only if it generates a lot of gas very quickly. Magnesium doesn't do that, as its oxide is solid. However, it burns very hot, for the same reason.

As a youngster, I did have an accident with Mg flash powder when a spark fell into a small bottle filled with the stuff I was holding (certainly more than 10g). I let go at the last moment so it didn't flash in my hand but on its way to the ground. I was protected by lab glasses and a white lab coat, but still my hand got badly burned (no lasting damage, fortunately).

The ease with which the powder ignites depends a lot on how finely ground it is. From moving it around, it may become more powdery and thus more sensitive over time, so beware.

One reason why you shouldn't ignite a pound of the stuff is that it isn't really much more impressive than doing a tablespoon full. Once you get a blinding flash, you won't gain anything visible by making it a bigger blinding flash.

Playing with Mg flash powder is a bit like handling a knife: no need to be afraid to take it into your hands, but that does not mean it's harmless - you can still mishandle or abuse it or just plain have an accident - with the full range from just painful to lethal.

EDIT: oh, yes: while the stuff is as mentioned not explosive per se, there will be some gas (oxygen) generated as the permanganate heats up, which won't react with Mg, especially if you have an stochiometric excess of the stuff. So don't stuff it into a bottle, as this will generate sharp flying shards which I'd consider the most dangerous part of the experiment.

EDIT2: I'd also strongly recommend that there should always be a 2nd person present.
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Old 05-22-2009, 10:41 PM #7
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Yeah I guess I will stay away from magnesium flash powder, that sounds ridiculous!

I'm not planning on making a large quantity of any flash powder, I was just wondering. If 30 grams can blow a 3-foot crater in the ground, a pound would...well...destroy a building or something!

I'll stick with normal magnesium powder then, dangerous enough in its own right, but safely so. I'll bet I could ignite it with a laser!

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Old 05-23-2009, 12:16 AM #8
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If you have to use an oxidizer, i'd lean towards potassium nitrate, certainly not permanganate or perchlorate. Mix the powders on a tile with safety glasses on, and it should make a fine experiment on small (grams) scale.

One serious problem with these reaction is that their speed and violence go up with smaller grain size and tighter packing (among other factors). A loose pile of course reactants might make an innoncent demonstration, but a packed mix of small grain reactants could blow your hand off with the same quantities.

Making any pyrotechnic mixture and storing it is really a bad idea - shards of that jam jar at the speed of sound will do very serious damage if things go wrong. And there are lots of things that can set off such disaster any time: not only obvious causes like sparks or static discharge, but also impurities in the reagents that could set things off even after a long time of problem-free storage. If you get 99% pure reactants, you should know what the other 1% is as well!
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Old 05-23-2009, 02:49 AM #9
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My goodness, I am getting in pretty deep! I'll stay away from dangerous oxidizers for now. Will powdered sugar work?

-Mark
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Old 05-23-2009, 02:56 AM #10
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Cool good thinking

30 grams would not blow 3 foot crater in the ground even the softest soil.

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Old 05-24-2009, 01:33 AM #11
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Sugar is a fuel, not an oxidizer. A mixture of powerdered sugar and potassium nitrate is more or less -the- highschool demostration of a pyrotechnic mixture.

30 grams of mangnesium flash powder will not make much of a crater at all, if it were a pile laying on the ground i'd dare to throw a match in myself. But if it was 30 grams in a cannister there is still risk of serious injury.

As a chemist i'd encourage anyone to learn about chemistry with fun experiments, this often kindles interest in the field. The problem is that people sometimes don't know when to quit, and readily scale up innocent firecrackers to lethal (mostly to themselves) pipe bombs.
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