Tag Archives: Boiling Liquid Expansion Vapor Explosion

Ellen Show – Spangler Science Take 9 – It's Raining Ping Pong Balls!

We’re back from the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California with lots of fun stories from our latest appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. When I say ‘we’… I mean ‘we’ because there’s no way I could pull these segments off by myself. Jeff Brooks, Carly Reed and Lisa Brooks traveled with me and worked hard backstage and on the outside location shoot to make everything run smoothly. Unlike other talk shows, the people at the Ellen Show are used to pulling off big stunts… but even this one had everyone a little on edge because no one really knew what was going to happen to all of those ping pong balls. Watch the video…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsnjvFy7aw8[/youtube]

The line-up of science demos was as follows…

  • Cloud in a Bottle – a really visual way of creating a water vapor cloud instantly in a 2-liter bottle.
  • The second demo was a Dust Explosion using a very fine spore called Lycopodium, a fine yellow powder derived from the spores of Lycopodium clavatum (stag’s horn club moss, running ground pine). By itself, the powder is not flammable. When the fine powder is dispersed in the air and each particle is surrounded by oxygen, it’s very flammable…and the fire ball is huge.
  • We wrapped up the studio portion of the segment talking about the expansive nature of liquid nitrogen which boils at room temperature. If liquid nitrogen is contained while it’s desperately trying to expand, you get an explosion. The technical term for the reaction is a BLEVE – boiling liquid expansion liquid explosion. We came up with a way to illustrate this in the studio using a 55 gallon steel drum and a mess of ping pong balls. The look on Ellen’s face at the end is worth the price of all the work (and hoops we had to jump through) to do the demo.

I came back after the commercial break to do one more liquid nitrogen demo outside where we shot a rubber trash can about 75 feet into the air. The producers loved the video of us practicing the demo in our parking lot and wanted to recreate it outside on the Warner Bros. lot. Again, thanks to Jeff, Lisa and Carly for working with the props team at the studio to make this happen.

Here are just a few of the behind the scenes pictures. Hope you enjoy the final product which airs on Monday, April 26, 2010.

Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-2 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-4 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-5 IMG_062Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-3 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-13 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-9 Ping Pong Rain Preview Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-1 Ellen-Spangler-April-2010-8