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Frostbite Theater

Exploding Rubber Stopper!

What happens when a rubber test tube stopper is placed in a pool of liquid nitrogen? Play the video to find out! Sometimes, materials behave in unexpected ways!

Announcer: Frostbite Theater presents... Cold Cuts! No baloney!

Joanna and Steve: Just science!

Joanna: Hi! I'm Joanna!

Steve: And I'm Steve!

Joanna: And this is a container of liquid nitrogen!

Steve: And this is my favorite rubber stopper!

Joanna: Let's see what happens when we place the rubber stopper in the liquid nitrogen!

Steve: Okay!

The rubber stopper is at room temperature but the liquid nitrogen is 196 degrees below zero Celsius, or 321 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Joanna: Since the stopper is so much hotter than the liquid nitrogen, it's causing the nitrogen to start boiling rapidly.

Steve: As the stopper gets colder, it contracts. However, there is a problem. The stopper is made from rubber and rubber isn't a very good conductor of heat. The outside of the stopper gets cold and contracts, but the inside stays warm and doesn't.

Joanna: This is causing great stress on the inside of the stopper. Eventually that stress will become so great that it will cause the stopper to blow itself apart!

Joanna and Steve: Gasp!

Joanna: Thanks for watching! I hope you'll join us again soon for another experiment!

Steve: Guess I gotta get another stopper...

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For questions about this page, please contact Steve Gagnon.