Dry ice in a sealed container has the potential to become a dry ice bomb. Here's a look at the dangers associated with a dry ice bomb and how to avoid them.
What Is a Dry Ice Bomb?A dry ice bomb simply consists of dry ice that is sealed in a rigid container. The dry ice sublimates to form carbon dioxide, which exerts pressure on the wall of the container until... BOOM! Although it is legal to make a dry ice bomb in some places, providing it is used for educational or entertainment purposes and not destruction, these devices are dangerous to make and use. Plus, many of the people who make a dry ice bomb do so accidentally, not realizing how quickly dry ice produces pressure or how much pressure it exerts as it turns into gas.
Dry Ice Bomb DangersA dry ice bomb causes an explosion with the following undesirable effects:
- Extremely loud report. You can permanently damage your hearing. This is the reason dry ice bombs are illegal in Tennessee, for example.
- The explosion throws pieces of the container which act as shrapnel. It also throws pieces of dry ice, which could get embedded in your skin, producing frostbite and extreme tissue damage as the carbon dioxide freezes tissue and sublimates to form gas bubbles.
- You can't gauge how pressurized the container is so you can't "defuse" the bomb. If you have a dry ice bomb that doesn't go off, it's still dangerous. You can't approach it to try to release the pressure, since this would put you at risk. The only good way to eliminate the hazard is to rupture the container from a distance. This often involves having a law enforcement officer shoot the container, which is a situation to avoid.
Accidental Dry Ice BombsWhile you may not set out to make a dry ice bomb, if you're working with dry ice you need to avoid making one unintentionally.
- Don't seal dry ice in a latching cooler.
- Don't close it up in a sealed fridge or freezer.
- Don't close it in a plastic bottle.
- ... Don't seal dry ice in anything!
Photo: High speed photograph of dry ice bomb exploding.