Styrofoam and Gasoline

Discussion in 'Chemistry' started by one_raven, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    When you mix Styrofoam (extruded polystyrene) with gasoline, the Styrofoam breaks down.
    All the air inside escapes, and it becomes a wet, gooey mess.
    If left out to dry, it gets hard again, but not like before, without the air - it resembels plastic.

    I have a few questions about this.
    Are there any "harmful" gasses released by this process (other than the obvious gasoline vapors).
    Why does it happen? (keeping in mind that I know little-to-nothing about chemistry)
    What other chemical, if any, can be added in place of the gasoline to have the same effect?

    Thanks.
     
  2. leopold i miss my coco. Valued Senior Member

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    17,015
    i have no idea about the answers to your questions, but,:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napalm

    just what do you have in mind chucky?

    i think the gasoline acts as a solvent, it dissolves the styrofoam. i don't think there is any chemical reaction.
     
  3. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    If I wanted to make Napalm, I would just add Gasoline to dish soap.
    It's easier to make and handle and it is more portable.

    I was actually thinking about an environmentally-friendly method of recycling Styrofoam, and putting the result to a different use.
    As I said, once it dries, it results in a plastic-like form that can be molded.

    This link says it dissolves it because they are both hydrocarbons.

    If that's true, is there a cost effective, environmentally-friendly way of producing a liquid hydrocarbon that does not come from fossil fuels?
    Or, is there a different way of breaking Styrofoam down in a similar manner?
     
  4. leopold i miss my coco. Valued Senior Member

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    17,015
    nail polish remover has a similar effect on cigarette filters, turns them into goo.
     
  5. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    Apparently Styrofoam can be dissolved by the juice squeezed from the peel of oranges.
     
  6. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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  7. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    So...
    Where can I buy industrial grade d-limonene by the gallon?

    Never mind - I found it.
     
  8. madanthonywayne Mourning in America Staff Member

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    I'll never forget when I discovered the little bit of chemistry you're talking about. I was about ten years old and painting a model. I put gas in a styrofoam cup to use as paint thinner and suddenly noticed the damned cup disolving right before my eyes! Good thing I was in the basement.
     
  9. Odin'Izm Procrastinator Registered Senior Member

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    1,851
    Polystyrene is an aromatic hydrocarbon, it has several complicated double covalent bonds and is a chain of styrene molecules (C6H5CH=CH2) which is very unsaturated.

    Gasoline is made up of an assortment of simple aliphatic hydrocarbons such as ethane and isobutane, and some aromatic hydrocarbons added as enhancers, as their break-up generates more energy.

    When you drop polystyrene into gasoline; the high energy bonds in the aromatic chain break in favour of simpler single covalent bonds.

    I'm not certain of the chains created but I can figure it out if you wish.

    The end effect is that the mass of polystyrene breaks apart releasing the trapped air, and forms into a mass of new hydrocarbon chains, which forms some fort of amorphous solid, a slimy film of the Ethane-styrene bonded chains and gasoline.

    There shouldn't be any gases released which are any different from the vapours off of the original gasoline. You are only in trouble when you burn it, this is when it starts to bond with oxygen forming things like carbon monoxide.
     
  10. spidergoat alien lie form Valued Senior Member

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    46,909
    Breaking down styrofoam chemically is not environmentally friendly at all, and it may be injurious to your health. It releases styrene, which is toxic. The best environmentally friendly way to break down this material is to grind it up and use it as a filler for garden soil.
     
  11. weed_eater_guy It ain't broke, don't fix it! Registered Senior Member

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    1,516
    If you're trying to recycle this into something structural, why not just grind the styrofoam into tiny little pieces and use it as concrete agregate? Wonder if you can make boyant concrete, could make for some interesting maritime applications...
     
  12. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

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    11,890
    As opposed to, say, buoyant steel? :D
     
  13. scorpius a realist Valued Senior Member

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    there was a company in Ontario Canada while back,that used styrofoam beads mixed with cement to make concrete blocks/bricks they were lighter and better insulation than regular all concrete blocks,not sure if they still do though.It was called Sparfil ..I think.
     
  14. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    I know that styrene evaporates easily, but can't measures be taken (such as a distillation chamber, perhaps) to mitigate health risks?
    Otherwise, polystyrene wouldn't be as widely used as it is.
    It is used from everthing from CD jewel cases ot food containers to medical implements.
    If protective measures during fabrication were not possible, there would be no safe way to work with the chemicals.

    According to Wiki, EPA regulation in the US disallows the use of solvents to dissolve Stryofoam.
    Nowhere else I look does it mention that the EPA bans this practice.
    Can someone help me find more information as to why that is, and what the specific laws are?
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2007
  15. John99 Banned Banned

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    22,046
    When i was a child i loved the smell of gasoline. I could smellit for hours but rarely did, just for a few minutes of that wonderful odor. Explain that.
     
  16. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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  17. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    I can't explain why you loved the smell, but your love of the smell and your practice of whiffing it for hours may explain a lot about you. :D
     
  18. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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  19. John99 Banned Banned

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    So you mean to tell me you didnt do this? I dont believe you dont like the smell of gas. AKA petrol. Note: i NEVER smelled it for hours, just a minute or two.
     
  20. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

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    The fumes affect your memory and other higher faculties.
    Did you know that?

    And, No, I can't stand the smell.
     

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