Exploding Pringles Can
What goes better with Pringles than a side of hydrogen gas?
It's true that you can't eat just one Pringle potato chip, and within a few minutes of popping the top, you find your whole hand is stuck in the can. Steve Spangler puts a science twist on getting the Pringles out of the can… and it only requires safety glasses, hydrogen gas, and a match. Who doesn't like to see an inverted Pringles can launch into the air leaving the chips behind. And, if you're really lucky, the chips are even stacked.
Chemistry teachers use this demonstration to illustrate the stoichiometry of hydrogen and oxygen and the perfect 2:1 ratio. As you see in the video, there are two holes in the can – one at the bottom and one on the side. The can is purged of all air as hydrogen gas fills the can. When the gas is ignited, a small flame of burning hydrogen gas comes out of the hole in the top of the can (it's actually the bottom of the can… but the can is turned upside down). The flame gets smaller and smaller as the amount of hydrogen gas burns off. At the same time, air is drawn into the bottom of the can to replace the hydrogen.
Remember that the air we breathe is made up of approximately 20% oxygen. Right before the flame goes out, it dips back into the hole where the remaining hydrogen has mixed with oxygen in a 2:1 ratio – the perfect mixture to make water. The resulting explosion propels the can up in the air… and chips go flying.
Special thanks to Irwin Talesnick, a master science teacher and demonstrator, who first taught Steve Spangler how to do this science demo back in 1995. Since that time, Lee Marek and the MythBusters have both shared their twists on this great demo.