From: "Wilkinson, Larry E" <larry.e.wilkinson**At_Symbol_Here**EXXONMOBIL.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Thirteen people hurt in chemical explosion at Nevada museum
Date: Thu, 4 Sep 2014 13:44:03 -0500
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: 4E8FBB8898ED5E4685E24C22F31B7082B225DCB4BE**At_Symbol_Here**dalexm03.NA.XOM.COM
In-Reply-To <5341c3d4330443ba9f22a6082ef245a9**At_Symbol_Here**>

I was a chemistry teacher in a former life (last year in the classroom was 25 years ago).  I’ve never done (nor seen this done) as a demo.  In a MUCH smaller ratio, it was (is?) commonly taught in Chemistry II or Chemistry AP as a part of a qualitative inorganic anion analysis scheme (for boron as borate).  Anion analysis typically followed weeks of lab work (and therefore technique safety training) on the extensive cation analysis scheme.


Larry Wilkinson

Chemist, ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Co.


From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Debbie M. Decker
Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2014 12:46 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Thirteen people hurt in chemical explosion at Nevada museum


Does this make sense as the demo being attempted?  And Sandra/Fannie are right on when it comes to this incident sounding all too familiar.




Green Borate Flame



-matches, or some source of fire

-glass container with narrow neck


-Solid boric acid --B (OH) 3(s)

-Concentrated sulfuric acid --H2SO4 (l)

-Methanol --CH3OH (l)



  1. In the glass container, combine 2-3mL of H2SO4(l) with 150mL of CH3OH(l)
  2. Add 30g of B(OH)3(s) to the mixture.
  3. Heat the mixture to a small boil.
  4. Ignite the evaporating gas. Swirl the container constantly to ensure that gas is constantly produced and the flame doesn’t go away.



-The mixture of B(OH)3(s), H2SO4(l), and CH3OH(l) produces an ester, which is volatile, flammable, and burns with a green flame.



From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Courtier, Fannie (courtife)
Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2014 10:34 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Thirteen people hurt in chemical explosion at Nevada museum


Yes it reminds me of the Rainbow video. Where were the googles and why was it not done in a hood for safety? Poor planning and poor safety management and the poor children.


Fannie Courtier

Senior Lab Associate



University of Cincinnati Clermont

From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] on behalf of Koster, Sandra [skoster**At_Symbol_Here**UWLAX.EDU]
Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2014 1:15 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Thirteen people hurt in chemical explosion at Nevada museum

By looking at the second video and the commentary it seems clear that the mixture was not faulty, rather that since one demo was already burning when the methanol was added to the second one, the methanol vapors traveled along the bench to the ignition source and flashed back.  Considering the size of the bottle of methanol it could have been much, much worse.  I think this is the sort of thing that has happened in the "Rainbow Demonstration".  Demonstrators have just got to be trained that having open flammables (or even worse, pouring flammables) plus ignition source is a recipe for disaster. 

Sandra Koster, Senior Lecturer

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse


On Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 8:55 AM, Secretary, ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <secretary**At_Symbol_Here**> wrote:


Thirteen people hurt in chemical explosion at Nevada museum


(Reuters) - Thirteen people were hurt, including several children, in a chemical explosion on Wednesday at a museum in Reno, Nevada, where presenters demonstrating a so-called smoke tornado caused the blast with a faulty mixture, officials said.

Seven children and two adults with non-life threatening injuries were transported to a local hospital, and another four people were treated and released at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno where the explosion occurred, said Reno police spokesman Tim Broadway.

The people who were hospitalized had suffered burn injuries, said Matthew Brown, a spokesman for the city of Reno.

Presenters at the museum were trying to create a "smoke tornado" in a visual demonstration they had done before when a faulty mixture of alcohol and boric acid caused the blast, Brown said.

The museum is aimed mainly at children and offers interactive exhibits in geology, astronomy, history and other subjects.

Officials said they did not immediately have details on the ages of the children hurt in the explosion, which they said did not light anything on fire at the museum.

Video report at



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