# Morning, All.

Discussion in 'Chemistry' started by Doc Braun, Apr 4, 2011.

1. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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I'm Doc Braun, and as that name probably suggests, I'm a movie buff as well as a chemistry enthusiast.

I've joined up initially to ask one question. I've asked it elsewhere, but not got a solution that I can really use.

I make amateur films. I'm currently planning one in which a scientist builds a Time Machine and requires a very powerful source of energy to operate it. He's a turn-of-the-century (the 20th century, that is), guy, so he doesn't have access to nuclear fuel.

But he believes he can "unlock the power of the atom" by chemical means. To that end, he experiments with mixing various chemicals, but they're all duds. But then he mixes two chemicals and the reaction is dramatic, and he realises he has his fuel.

Now to my question. I need to know two chemicals which, when mixed, will give me that "dramatic" reaction. Mainly, I want visible fumes to rise and perhaps the colour to change as well.

Obviously, I do not want hazardous chemicals, since I'll need my actor for the rest of the movie...

Can anyone suggest any substances that would serve the purpose, and be totally safe to handle?

EDIT: I can't use strong acids or anything highly flammable, because it is a small indoor set, with no ventilation for hazardous gases/fumes/smoke.

Thanks.

Last edited: Apr 5, 2011

3. ### adoucetteCaca OccursValued Senior Member

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The chemicals for this are easy to come by and the reaction is somewhat impressive because of the smoke and flames, and though flame is involved, if done in the open like this, the reaction is not explosive.

It's relatively safe because it takes a few seconds for the heat to build up to set the glycerine on fire allowing the actor to step back.
Indeed, you could stage it like he thinks he has another failure, and even have him turn his back on the mix when it goes off.....

Arthur

5. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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35
Well, that was a quick response, Arthur! Thanks very much.

That may be a little too dramatic for my purposes, though. This will be happening on a small, enclosed set with little ventilation. Although, maybe if I used very small amounts...?

I do like your suggestion re the mise-en-scène, where we see him move away and then look back when he hears the reaction.

I noticed another video when I watched that one you posted. It involved adding liquids to fluorescent dyes. That also would be interesting.

Can you suggest any other mixes that would produce just a little smoke/fumes, (or even just colour changes from two clear fluids) but be a bit less intense?

Thanks.

7. ### adoucetteCaca OccursValued Senior Member

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Well this one was always interesting (often used to make models of volcanos)

It uses a few drops on Acetone on Ammonium Dichromate and you have to light it with a match to get it started, but it doesn't make much smoke, but it does produce a heap load of ash.

The few drops of acetone is just to make lighting it easier, but it also meets your needs of bringing two chemicals together.

Arthur

8. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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35
Another question.

If I can't find a totally safe way to produce a dramatic effect with fumes and vapour, etc, I'll settle for some intense colour change when the chemicals are mixed.

I had an idea about those "Glow Sticks" you can buy. I was wondering, what happens if you cut one open and save the fluid, then break the inside tube and save the fluid from that seperately? Do they stay active when exposed to air?

Because if they do, I could have the actor pour one into the other and get an instant green light glow. That would be a convincing effect, too. Is that stuff safe?

9. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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35
That looks pretty good, Arthur. But again, it's a bit dangerous, with the flames and all. Ideally, I want a cold reaction.

Thanks.

10. ### adoucetteCaca OccursValued Senior Member

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Glow sticks give off light when two solutions are allowed to mix. The sticks consist of a small fragile container within a flexible outer container. Each container holds one of the two solutions. When the outer container is bent, it breaks the inner container, releasing the first solution into the second solution. After breaking, the tube is shaken to mix the two components. Basically to activate this reaction, simply bend the glow stick.

 Dangers

Glow sticks contain hydrogen peroxide, and phenol is produced as a by-product. It is advisable, therefore, to keep the mixture away from skin and to prevent accidental ingestion if the glow stick case splits or breaks. If spilled on skin the chemicals could cause slight skin irritation, swelling, or, in extreme circumstances, vomiting and nausea. Some ravers will cut or break open a glow stick and apply the glowing solution directly to bare skin in order to make their bodies glow. Some of the chemicals used in older glow sticks were thought to potentially be carcinogens.[11] The sensitizers used are polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, a class of compounds known for their carcinogenity. Also it is wise to avoid all contact with thin membranes such as the eye or nasal area.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glow_stick

11. ### adoucetteCaca OccursValued Senior Member

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Now in this he uses the clear liquid with Phenolphthalein disolved in it as the indicator, but the clear solution is an acid and he has to add quite a bit of the base to first neutralize the acid before the whole think will turn purple, but if you started out with a clear base solution it would turn color immediately (You could dissolve a bit of baking soda in water for your base)

One other way you could make it a bit more dramatic is to put a little dry ice in your beaker of baking soda water, this would make it give off harmless CO2 smoke. Put a ice cube worth in a small beaker just before you do the scene for best effect.

Arthur

12. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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35
Thanks, Arthur. Despite the need for some caution, that seems to be the safest option so far. I guess I have to make sure I buy the newer type, and that shouldn't be too difficult.

I think my actor will be happy to handle those chemicals. I'll have him wearing gloves in any case, and I can always fake the actual moment when the two chemicals mix, by careful editing.

Thanks again.

13. ### adoucetteCaca OccursValued Senior Member

Messages:
7,829
If you try the Phenolphthalein method (even safer than the Glow Sticks) another way you could make it a bit more dramatic is to put a little dry ice in your beaker of baking soda water, this would make it give off harmless CO2 smoke. Put a ice cube worth in a small beaker just before you do the scene for best effect.

14. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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35
I may have trouble finding some chemicals here in Australia, Arthur. We seem to have more restrictions on such things than some other countires.

But, keeping my options open, I will try that one, too.

One good thing is, I know I can at least get dry ice here!

Thanks again.

15. ### ULTRARealistically SurrealRegistered Senior Member

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You could put some dry ice in some coloured water. It will boil and bubble and fume without being a danger to anyone. It's cheap too.

16. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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35
Yes, that's the ultimate safe solution.

Trouble is, it's a bit of a cliche in movies now, isn't it. You can always see the white bubbles forming at the bottom, and that's a dead giveaway.

I'm only an amateur film maker, but I'm going to try doing something that hasn't been used before, if I can.

Still, I can always "fix it in post", as the pros say.

Must go now and shop around for some chemicals. Thanks, all, for your help. It's very much appreciated.

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18. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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35
Yes, that looks pretty safe, Arthur. I should be able to get some of that here.

Thanks.

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20. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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That's another one to try. I've been thinking I should have him trying several different experiments before he finds the most dramatic one. That clear-to-blue, and then back again, would be a good start.

Thanks.

21. ### cosmictravelerBe kind to yourself always.Valued Senior Member

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33,264
Why not just go out and rent a smoke/fog making machine? I'm certain that there are some available wherever you are for they use them in movie making all over the world.

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22. ### Doc BraunRegistered Member

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35
I don't need to fog the set, though. I'm only wanting something that will place a small cloud of vapour on to the surface of a fluid in a beaker, so that it looks like it's "nuclear" or at least very potent.