Mixsonian Morrs and Barbara Larry

The Volcano

ammonium dichromate burning
Burning ammonium dichromate

Continued from previous page....

 When we got home, we went out to “my lab” and Dad got the mystery chemical out, put a tablespoon the bright orange chemical in a shallow dish and lit it with a match.  As it caught fire a deep red flame shot up a few inches making soft roaring sound then, as it burned further, it begin spewing out a puffy green material, expanding to make a small pile four times the size of the original teaspoon looking like a small volcano.  “It’s ammonium dichromate.”, Dad said.  How cool was that!  Had a fifth grade paper coming up which we had to write a short paper and then read it in front of the class, something I hated mainly due to my speech problem with certain words. But I decided right then it would be on volcanos with a “real” volcano and I actually looked forward to the presentation for the first time.  I got out “V” volume of the World Book Encyclopedias that Grandma Junior had given us (another one of Uncle Corky’s hand-me-downs) and read the hole article on volcanos then wrote my school paper.  But to top it all off I made a two foot tall paper Mache volcano, painted it black with red streams to look like lava down its side then I put a small tin can at the top which I could put the ammonium dichromate in.  Of course I had to test it, Mom, Dad, Brenda and David all gathered around as I spread newspaper out on the dining room table, set my volcano on it, put in some ammonium dichromate and lit it with a match. It was fantastic, out of the top red lava flames spewed and the green ash flowed down the sides.   It was spectacular.  The following week Mom drove me to school so I could take my volcano for my presentation which drew quite a few questions when I entered class and set it on a table. When it came time for my presentation I take a little jar of ammonium dichromate out of my pocket and pour some of it into the top of my paper Mache volcano. Looking at it I decided to make it more spectacular and poured in some more.  I then proceeded to read my paper which was short, a bit scientific and really not all that interesting, but all the kids in class were silent and listed raptly and I finished saying, “I will now demonstrate”, will I probably didn’t say “demonstrate” as that was to hard of a word for me, and I took out a box of matches from my pocket and lit the volcano.  It started slow at first, a little smoke, a few green ashes, but it quickly grew in size, the red flames shot up and inch, then two, then three inches, green ash shooting in the air a foot above the volcano and spewing down its sides and onto the table.  Ok, I was getting a little worried, perhaps I put a little to much in the cup, but it quickly died down and went out.  There were six inches of the green ash all over the table which I didn’t think to put newspaper on like I had done at home.  I stand there  with like a “like wow!” look on my face staring at the volcano forgetting I’m at the front of the class when I hear after holding their breaths, the kids in the class let out a collective gasp and start talking.  It was a success, I had the biggest grin when I hear the teacher say with a worried look on her face, “That was quite a demonstration. Get that mess cleaned up.”  I got the wastepaper basket from the corner of class and sweep the green ash off the table into it and then take my seat sure that I got an A on the paper.

Remember this was in the 60’s, such presentations would not be possible for school children in latter years.  At that time there were no rules about bring strange substances to school, there were no smoke alarms in the classrooms which were not even air-conditioned.  In a few more years in Junior High School I would bring another one of my “experiments” to school.

Updated: 08-19-2023

Rocket Man