|Hello, my name is Will and I am an AP Chemistry
student at Milton High School in Massachusetts.
For our final project, my partner and I are really
interested in the explosive polymerization of
4-nitroaniline reaction that you had on your
here. We have access to all the chemicals, yet
we want to be as safe as possible. Since we are
not exactly sure what the reaction produces, would
a high school fume hood be sufficient protection?
Also, how should we safely dispose of the product?
Thank you very much for your time,
I understand your fascination with "combustion
chemistry" - after all, that's what originally got
me interested in chemistry many years ago.
Unfortunately, the chemistry involved is typically
messy and poorly understood, which may not make
the "explosive polymerization of 4-nitroaniline
reaction" a very good final project. Certainly the
materials involved are quite hazardous:
concentrated sulfuric acid (as you surely know) is
a highly corrosive oxidizer even at room
temperature, and 4-nitroaniline is toxic, harmful
to the environment, and a suspected human
Of course handling hazardous chemicals safely is
part of chemistry, so that alone should not
A hood alone is not enough protection though,
you will also need the appropriate personal
protective equipment, meaning safety glasses, a
lab coat and gloves. Disposal of the generated
waste may prove to be the biggest challenge,
because it is unclear what exactly the "polymer"
is that the reaction generates. The elemental
composition that is given in the article you
referred to tells you that it is not, as the video
states, "pure carbon". So the polymer has to be
treated as if it were as hazardous as the starting
materials (combined now - so you have toxic,
corrosive, environmental hazard, and potential
carcinogen) and you need to dispose of it
accordingly. This means handing it over to
someone/a facility who can handle such waste. If
your high school does not have a procedure for
handling such waste, you could probably inquire
with a college or university near you and they
might help you out.
There is no way I would consider it safe or
acceptable to dispose of the waste from this
experiment in the regular trash. As a side note,
will the final project involve some sort of
scientific inquiry - investigating effect of the
ratio of reagents on the outcome (amount of foam
maybe?) or whether different nitroaniline isomers
show the same/similar reaction?
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