Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Salsa Magic! - How to cut your kitchen prep time with the suitable application of explosives

What made our salsa so brutal was Tannerite. Tannerite is, basically, ammonium nitrate (it's actually ammonium nitrate and ammonium perchlorate, with a sensitizer made from aluminum, titanium, and zirconium powders). It's very stable, relatively inexpensive as these things go, and a Hell of a lot of fun. Our hypothesis was that using explosives to make salsa would be faster than using a food processor.

We assumed that salsa would fly in every direction, and that not much would be recoverable. So we devised a science-project-esque, trifold-y backdrop to attempt recovery of enough salsa to taste.

"And Samuel said to the Salsa: 'Thou hast done foolishly...'" (1 Samuel 13:13)

Ammonium nitrate is of relatively low brisance (from the French briser - 'to break'), so maybe this was part of the problem. Energy-wise, a good rule of thumb is -5 x 106 J kg-1, and our charge weighed about 0.25 kg, releasing an estimated 1.25 MJ (for comparison, doing all this in our food processor would use about 48 kJ if it took one minute to process). Specific power can be estimated as the product of specific enthalpy of detonation with the velocity of advance of the reaction front, divided by an appropriate characteristic dimension. Because the specific dimension depends on the geometry of the system, calculating specific power is tricky, but 125 GW is reasonable for a dense-phase detonation.

This was probably a tad bit of overkill (two orders of magnitude more energy than necessary, at least) for the amount of tomatoes that we used. Our conclusion was that using explosives in food prep is totally awesome.

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