Soon after human beings discovered fire and alcohol, one intrepid soul most likely tried combining the two with magical (and probably highly dangerous) results. We still use the ancient element of fire and the enchanting spirit of alcohol in the modern era, though we now have a far more intimate understanding of the rules of physics and chemistry governing the two. We have traded magic for science.
And yet the sight of multi-colored flame burninating with reckless abandon is still something primal and magical to behold. That’s what makes the classic “whoosh bottle” experiment an enjoyable watch even today. Thanks to imgur user/DIY experimenter Beerquarium, we have some beautiful still frames of this tried-and-true experiment in action.
But before we get to them, let’s take a look at the whoosh bottle in motion and explain just what’s going on:
What looks like an empty carboy–which should definitely be made of polycarbonate and not glass in order to prevent explosions and deadly shrapnel–is actually a vessel filled with alcohol vapor. Colorless and heavier than air, this vapor forms quickly because the alcohol used is of the low-boiling variety, meaning it will vaporize at room temperature. The alcohol vapor, when mixed with the air in the bottle, is also highly flammable and readily available for combustion, so when a flame is applied the reaction takes off quite quickly, as seen above.
The first “whoosh” from which the experiment derives its name is from the speed of this combustion in a confined space as the heated gas and flame comes rushing out of the bottle’s neck. The secondary effect of the flames slowly burning down the inside of the container is normally accompanied by a “whomp” sound thanks to reduced vapor pressure in the bottle. You can also get different effects by trying different alcohols–as long as you observe the proper safety requirements and follow the recommended procedure, as seen in the following video:
As a bonus, Beerquarium spices up the classic experiment with a little variety, like sprinkling some water and then vodka into the bottle to see what happens. Because Science. Check the images out in the gallery below and let us know what you think in the comments!