“A Devilish Compound” experiment

How to make nitrogen triiodide, which explodes instantly, releasing purple smoke

You don’t want to mess with this sub­stance! Even chemists are afraid to touch it. Here’s an ex­plo­sive ex­per­i­ment with ni­tro­gen tri­io­dide.

Reagents and equip­ment:

  • crys­tal io­dine;
  • am­mo­nia;
  • ethyl al­co­hol;
  • fil­ter pa­per;
  • beaker;
  • feath­er.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

Put crys­tal io­dide in the beaker and add am­mo­nia. A dark brown sed­i­ment forms. Af­ter the sed­i­ment has set­tled, place it in a pa­per fil­ter and wash away the re­mains of io­dine and am­mo­nia with ethyl al­co­hol. Dry the sed­i­ment for 30 min­utes. When the sub­stance has dried, touch it with a feath­er. It ex­plodes in­stant­ly, re­leas­ing pur­ple smoke.

Pro­cess­es de­scrip­tion

In the in­ter­ac­tion of io­dine and am­mo­nia, a black sed­i­ment forms – ni­tro­gen tri­io­dide. Ni­tro­gen tri­io­dide is an ex­treme­ly ex­plo­sive sub­stance. With any me­chan­i­cal im­pact, it breaks down with the re­lease of pur­ple io­dine va­por. This in­sta­bil­i­ty is ex­plained by the fact that the mol­e­cule of this com­pound con­tains three large io­dine atoms, and so the ni­tro­gen-io­dine bond is very long, and there­fore un­sta­ble. This com­pound strives to break these bonds as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. Any ex­ter­nal im­pact, even the touch of a feath­er, caus­es it to break down in­stant­ly into more stale com­pounds – io­dine and ni­tro­gen.

Safe­ty pre­cau­tions

Ob­serve safe­ty rules when work­ing with ni­tro­gen tri­io­dide. Don’t touch it with­out spe­cial pro­tec­tive equip­ment.