What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

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What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby peewee_RotA » Tue Apr 09, 2013 12:53 pm UTC

Am I right to be afraid of pressure cookers? What's the worst thing that can happen if you misuse a pressure cooker in an ordinary kitchen?
—Delphine Lourtau


http://what-if.xkcd.com/40/



Notes:

Broken link in post:

Code: Select all

<img class="illustration" title="$$FILL ME IN$$" src="/imgs/a/40/pressure_cooker_grave.png t: frankly, we’re surprised she survived this long.">


Link: http://what-if.xkcd.com/imgs/a/40/press ... his%20long.
Has title text: "$$FILL ME IN$$"

Actual image:
Image
Actual Title Text: "frankly, we’re surprised she survived this long."
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby PATT » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:28 pm UTC

Am I the only one that worries about incurring the chinese curse: "May you come to the attention of those in authority" - when I disappear down the wiki / google rabbit hole after reading this article?

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Dracomax » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:37 pm UTC

Is it wrong that I want a pressure cooker now?
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im afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usualy are.”
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby ctdonath » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:45 pm UTC

A kitchen outfitted with pure oxygen, liquid oxygen, and substantial quantities of fluorine hardly counts as "ordinary".

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby feldgendler » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:48 pm UTC

I think that, although the dioxygen difluoride answer is fun to read, it's cheating. The question was about what could be achieved in an ordinary kitchen, and the experiment Randall describes requires sophisticated equipment way beyond what you can expect to find there. (The black hat man's kitchen is, of course, no ordinary one.)

I guess disabling the safety valve is possible with ordinary tools, but can you do better than your run-of-the-mill flying cooker at home?

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby peewee_RotA » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:49 pm UTC

ctdonath wrote:A kitchen outfitted with pure oxygen, liquid oxygen, and substantial quantities of fluorine hardly counts as "ordinary".


Not even for molecular gastronomy.
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby peewee_RotA » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:50 pm UTC

feldgendler wrote:I guess disabling the safety valve is possible with ordinary tools, but can you do better than your run-of-the-mill flying cooker at home?



I totally fell victim to a similar fate last night.

Cooking directions: combine 1 teaspoon of oil and 2 teaspoons of water. cook on highest heat.

I only burned myself once. I'm an idiot for not noticing the problem from the start.
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby richP » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:07 pm UTC

Random thoughts:

Obligatory: "The goggles, they do nothing!"

The Journal of Fluorine Chemistry seems like it may have high turnover in readership. Also probably sponsors a lot of memorial scholarships.

I'm picturing the rest of the guys at the Los Alamos National Laboratory looking at these Fluorine guys and thinking "I'm glad I work with something safe, like Plutonium".

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby belathedarkone » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:15 pm UTC

From personal experience, I would say the worst thing that could happen in an ordinary kitchen would be for the top to come off (after not being put on correctly, maybe) and fly across the room and hit someone. No one was injured that time, but a steam-heated, flying chunk of metal just might be dangerous.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby veryslightlygeeky » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:16 pm UTC

I seem to recall that pressure cookers are designed to deform and thus release pressure in a controlled way,if the safety valve is clogged. Can anybody confirm this?

I suspect that the lid was not correctly fitted to the cooker in the photo. Beware.

From personal experience: do not try to pressure-cook frozen brussels sprouts. The results smelled awful and had a consitency such that they splattered if dropped just 30 cm. The product went direct to the toilet, avoiding the customary alimentary route.

But pressure cookers do use significantly less fuel. The photo has not put me off them.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby EvanED » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:22 pm UTC

I was totally going to link to Things I Won't Work With except Randall did it already. :-) If you don't click on links in what-if posts usually, this one comes highly recommended.

I think my favorite entry is this one: "In a comment to my post on putting out fires last week, one commenter mentioned the utility of the good old sand bucket, and wondered if there was anything that would go on to set the sand on fire. Thanks to a note from reader Robert L., I can report that there is indeed such a reagent: chlorine trifluoride". (There's even a brand new entry with a video of the stuff setting things on fire if you follow the first link.)
Last edited by EvanED on Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:25 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Klear » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:23 pm UTC

My first thought when reading today's question was "Stick FOOF in it!"

Weird thing is, I'm not even a chemist. I learned of that stuff from this forum.

Oh, and I was always terrified of the stream of hot air that gets blasted from the pressure cooker before you can open it. I imagined it to kill my hand instantly, as steam does in action movies. Turns out you can keep your hand in it for a short time before it even starts to feel unpleasant. At least that's the case with our pressure cooker. I'm not responsible if your hand gets instagibbed by yours.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Gamil » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:31 pm UTC

"Science"... You're missing an Aperture Laboratories logo.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby gchrz » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:50 pm UTC

I work in the aerospace thermal process field for a company that builds large aerospace pressure vessels. (Autoclaves).

There's a story going around (i don't know the validity of it) about an autoclave failing. But these things are way beyond the capabilities of a standard kitchen pressure cooker...

Imagine a 15 ft diameter, 40 ft long (interior working dimensions), that cooks at 650 F at anywhere from 150-500 psi.

The story goes that the locking ring fails while the system is running, the door blows off with tremendous force, punches a hole through the side of the building and plants itself firmly into the side of a train that was next to the building, derailing the train.

a little bit more scary than a kitchen cooker...but could be a ton of fun to see. I imagine the noise would be horrible though...

So I guess this only halfway fits the what-if. it IS a pressure cooker, just cooks airplane pieces/parts and f-1 bodies.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Kethryes » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:27 pm UTC

Gamil wrote:"Science"... You're missing an Aperture Laboratories logo.


Umbrella Corp. could work too... :P
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby BunsenH » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:34 pm UTC

If you're going to be pumping fluorine into your pressure cooker (or other container), which you definitely shouldn't try, remember that the container has to be specially lined so the fluorine won't react with it. Teflon is good; otherwise, a nickel alloy — you get a thin layer of nickel fluoride which prevents further reaction.

veryslightlygeeky: Re: I seem to recall that pressure cookers are designed to deform and thus release pressure in a controlled way,if the safety valve is clogged. Can anybody confirm this?

I don't think so; at least, mine doesn't appear to be. I've had its safety valve blow a couple of times when something clogged the vent. After that... the lid and body are cast aluminum, about 3 mm thick, and the flanges that lock the lid to the body overlap by about 2 mm. It would take a lot of pressure to deform the cooker enough to let the lid pop off. For that matter, it would take a rather substantial bit of hacking to "defeat" the safety valve strongly enough that it wouldn't blow before the lid popped.

Perhaps you're thinking of the safety valve itself, which is designed to deform and pop out when the pressure vent is clogged?

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby udscbt » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:48 pm UTC

Now I want to become a chemist. Of the suicide kind apparently.
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Germstore » Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:49 pm UTC

"Hydrogen sulfide, for example, reacts with four molecules of FOOF to give sulfur hexafluoride, 2 molecules of HF and four oxygens. . .and 433 kcal" :shock:

Can this be right? So in theory a bomb made from a kilogram of the stuff would have the explosive power of a nuclear weapon (ignoring the significant engineering challenges)?

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby rhomboidal » Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:43 pm UTC

Personally, one of the worst things that can happen in a pressure cooker is beef stew where the beef gets super chewy and the celery super mushy. Atrocious.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:37 pm UTC

I'm disappointed that Randall didn't use the wonderfully onomatopoeic formula "FOOF" instead of just boring old O2F2.
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby eag1et » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:47 pm UTC

It can literally make ice catch fire.


But more importantly, can you use it to set fire...to the rain?

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Icalasari » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:16 pm UTC

I KNEW that chemical sounded familiar! I just knew it by the name FOOF!

...I still want to try using that stuff. If I die in a horrible way, I want FOOF to be involved

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby 5th Earth » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:47 pm UTC

BunsenH wrote:If you're going to be pumping fluorine into your pressure cooker (or other container), which you definitely shouldn't try, remember that the container has to be specially lined so the fluorine won't react with it. Teflon is good; otherwise, a nickel alloy — you get a thin layer of nickel fluoride which prevents further reaction.


This was my thought. Hot fluorine will react with damn near anything, so good luck pumping that into an ordinary pressure cooker without catastrophic results. For example, the pressure release valve will probably have a rubber gasket in it, which will certainly burst into flames.

I have questions about the account of a silicon wafer in an HF/nitric acid bath at the bottom of the linked article at http://www.lateralscience.co.uk/Fluorine/Fluorine.html . I work in a wafer fab too, and a normal procedure is to dip the wafers in an HF bath as part of the cleaning process after polishing them. Pretty much nothing happens except any silicon oxide on the surface will dissolve.

Granted it's still scary working around a 25 liter bucket of HF.
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby paul9631 » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:03 pm UTC

Well, I wrote a semi-long post, but as this is my first post, and I had a lot of links (I guess?) it got flagged as spam. Not to be deterred, I put it up in html form on dinkypage, (it is on /169886) but that got flagged as spam also. :( If you can get to it, great, but I will try to post it again in a little while.

EDIT: I just went and read the rules like a good little boy, so I know that I can't post links until I have 5 posts.
Last edited by paul9631 on Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:23 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby KarMann » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:54 pm UTC

EvanED wrote:I was totally going to link to Things I Won't Work With except Randall did it already. :-) If you don't click on links in what-if posts usually, this one comes highly recommended.

I think my favorite entry is this one: "In a comment to my post on putting out fires last week, one commenter mentioned the utility of the good old sand bucket, and wondered if there was anything that would go on to set the sand on fire. Thanks to a note from reader Robert L., I can report that there is indeed such a reagent: chlorine trifluoride". (There's even a brand new entry with a video of the stuff setting things on fire if you follow the first link.)

Just want to say, yep, I read "Things I Won't Work With" before it was cool, too. And the ClF3 is absolutely my favourite.
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby BunsenH » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:55 am UTC

Germstore wrote:"Hydrogen sulfide, for example, reacts with four molecules of FOOF to give sulfur hexafluoride, 2 molecules of HF and four oxygens. . .and 433 kcal" :shock:

Can this be right? So in theory a bomb made from a kilogram of the stuff would have the explosive power of a nuclear weapon (ignoring the significant engineering challenges)?


That would have to be 433 kcal/mol, not kcal/molecule. So no nuclear-power bombs. Fortunately. Isn't it bad enough as it is? (Okay, SF6 is actually pretty safe, but I can do without the HF, thanks.)

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby JohnTheWysard » Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:33 am UTC

As a summer intern at A Big Chemical Company I Won't Name, back in 1967, I was working with BrF3 in liquid bromine as a solvent. It was a reagent to make some MUCH nastier stuff: halopicrins.

Thanks, Dr. G, wherever you are, for your thorough lessons in lab safety. They served me well through grad school and out of the lab.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby PM 2Ring » Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:52 am UTC

I agree that synthesizing dioxygen difluoride in the kitchen goes well beyond the scope of the question; OTOH, who can resist an opportunity to talk about FOOF? :)


richP wrote:I'm picturing the rest of the guys at the Los Alamos National Laboratory looking at these Fluorine guys and thinking "I'm glad I work with something safe, like Plutonium".

Those guys also work with fluorine compounds: uranium hexafluoride.
Uranium hexafluoride (UF6), referred to as "hex" in the nuclear industry, is a compound used in the uranium enrichment process that produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It forms solid grey crystals at standard temperature and pressure (STP), is highly toxic, reacts violently with water and is corrosive to most metals.

[...]

During nuclear reprocessing, uranium is reacted with chlorine trifluoride to give UF6.


And from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Manhattan_Project
1944
September 2: chemists Peter N. Bragg, Jr., and Douglas P. Meigs are killed, and Arnold Kramish almost killed, while attempting to unclog a uranium enrichment device which is part of the pilot thermal diffusion plant at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Two soldiers also receive extensive injuries. An explosion of liquid uranium hexafluoride burst nearby steam pipes, and steam combined with the uranium hexafluoride to spray them with highly corrosive hydrofluoric acid.



gchrz wrote:There's a story going around (i don't know the validity of it) about an autoclave failing. But these things are way beyond the capabilities of a standard kitchen pressure cooker...

There was a rather spectacular explosion involving an autoclave at the first aerogel production facility, but the autoclave itself didn't explode from over-pressure - it leaked methanol into the room and the methanol subsequently exploded.

From http://energy.lbl.gov/ECS/aerogels/
The first pilot plant for the production of silica aerogel monoliths using the TMOS method was established by members of the Lund group in Sjobo, Sweden. The plant included a 3000 liter autoclave designed to handle the high temperatures and pressures encountered for supercritical methanol (240 degrees C and 80 atmospheres). However, in 1984 the autoclave developed a leak during a production run. The room containing the vessel quickly filled with methanol vapors and subsequently exploded. Fortunately, there were no fatalities in this incident, but the facility was completely destroyed. The plant was later rebuilt and continues to produce silica aerogels using the TMOS process. The plant is currently operated by the Airglass Corp.



FWIW, we have a thread for Derek Lowe's stuff over in the Science forum "Things I Won't Work With" (Derek Lowe's Chemistry Blog).

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Himself » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:19 am UTC

Is Randall reading the forums? FOOF came up in the discussion for Interplanetary Cessna.
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby JustDoug » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:51 am UTC

Somewhere, somplace else in the universe...

"What? Fluorine again?! I had it for lunch!"

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby galibert » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:29 am UTC

I recommend to everyone that found the what-if amusing to lookup on google "a tall tail" by Charles Stross, a short available for free on the tor website.

No url because the spam detector is a little dumb...

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Zomba » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:46 am UTC

I'm just here to chime in that HF is some nasty stuff. It is typically transported in tank containers (made of carbon steel), and can cause some very nasty problems when handled improperly. A Korean factory worker opened the valves on a HF tank (containing 8 tons of HF) and released its cargo into the environment last year. Needless to say, he and several others around him were quickly in a very unpleasant situation. 5 dead, 800 hospitalized. It was all caught on CCTV and is on YouTube as a cautionary tale. When working with nasty stuff, it is important to be trained and follow procedures!

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby scaredyfish » Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:37 am UTC

Zomba wrote:I'm just here to chime in that HF is some nasty stuff. It is typically transported in tank containers (made of carbon steel), and can cause some very nasty problems when handled improperly.


Knowing someone who used to work for a major chemical company, apparently they used HF during one of their manufacturing processes. The particular chemical plant that dealt with the stuff exploded on several occasions (and nobody was particularly surprised when it did). What they did have were procedures for making sure that nobody was in the vicinity when it was in use, and for cleaning up afterwards. :shock:

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Zomba » Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:57 am UTC

scaredyfish wrote:
Zomba wrote:I'm just here to chime in that HF is some nasty stuff. It is typically transported in tank containers (made of carbon steel), and can cause some very nasty problems when handled improperly.


Knowing someone who used to work for a major chemical company, apparently they used HF during one of their manufacturing processes. The particular chemical plant that dealt with the stuff exploded on several occasions (and nobody was particularly surprised when it did). What they did have were procedures for making sure that nobody was in the vicinity when it was in use, and for cleaning up afterwards. :shock:


:shock: Wow. I'm guessing that environmental regs were pretty relaxed there. Well, that or some officials got some fat red packets...

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby scaredyfish » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:44 am UTC

Zomba wrote::shock: Wow. I'm guessing that environmental regs were pretty relaxed there. Well, that or some officials got some fat red packets...


Sorry, maybe wrong terminology? The reactor vessel exploded (and given the size of the vessels used in industrial chemical production, that's still a significant bang), but I think they had an outer shield to avoid any actual chemical escape to the environment. The point was that even in industrial chemical processes where the exact nature of the chemicals used is known, fluorine compounds are just hideously reactive and dangerous.

(And as such I won't be handling even elemental Fluorine, let alone FOOF, thank you very much).

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Zomba » Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:51 am UTC

scaredyfish wrote:
Zomba wrote::shock: Wow. I'm guessing that environmental regs were pretty relaxed there. Well, that or some officials got some fat red packets...


Sorry, maybe wrong terminology? The reactor vessel exploded (and given the size of the vessels used in industrial chemical production, that's still a significant bang), but I think they had an outer shield to avoid any actual chemical escape to the environment. The point was that even in industrial chemical processes where the exact nature of the chemicals used is known, fluorine compounds are just hideously reactive and dangerous.

(And as such I won't be handling even elemental Fluorine, let alone FOOF, thank you very much).


Ah, that makes more sense. I was imagining a case where they expected to release HF into the external environment.

I love that FOOF is also nicknamed 'Satan's Kimchi' (Derek Lowe's term according to Wiki and the link posted above). That sounds like a great band name.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby AUS » Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:07 am UTC

Zomba wrote:I love that FOOF is also nicknamed 'Satan's Kimchi' (Derek Lowe's term according to Wiki and the link posted above). Dot Tumblr Dot Com.

Fixed.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby ahammel » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:05 pm UTC

Zomba wrote:I'm just here to chime in that HF is some nasty stuff.
Aqueous HF, instead of burning you like a proper non-daemonic acid, causes your bones to dissolve.
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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby EvanED » Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:09 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:
Zomba wrote:I'm just here to chime in that HF is some nasty stuff.
Aqueous HF, instead of burning you like a proper non-daemonic acid, causes your bones to dissolve.
The really fun part is that, at least from what I've heard, it's not particularly painful for quite some time, so you may not even realize anything is wrong.

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Re: What-If 0040: "Pressure Cooker"

Postby Negrebskoh » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:47 am UTC

While everything I've encountered so far states that there is no practical use for F2O2 due to its instability, would it not be useful if you could synthesize some in space? No problems with keeping it at low temperature there. Also, hardly any chemicals for it to interact with.


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