Global Warming
Organic Chemistry
Air Pollution

Do all explosions produce carbon dioxide?

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June 16, 2011 6:48PM

Many do, some don't

An explosion is nothing more than the rapid release of energy. This is most commonly due to the rapid combustion of a material, although nuclear explosions do not involve combustion. The combustion of any hydrocarbon or other carbon-containing substance ALWAYS produces carbon dioxide. This might include explosion due to a natural gas or gasoline.

It is possible, however, to explode substances that do not contain carbon, such as pure hydrogen (the very famous Hindenburg disaster in 1937 is a classic example of a very big hydrogen gas explosion -- see the Web Links to the left of this answer for more about that and an impressive video -- skip ahead to 3:30 min to see the explosion!). An explosion of hydrogen produces only water vapor (H2O), NOT carbon dioxide (CO2). SO2, sulfur dioxide, is also commonly ford when sulfur is burned instead of carbon. Azide salts like NaN3 are commonly used to explosively inflate car airbags. On detonation, they decompose to the elemental metal. This is a favourable transition due to a positive change and the formation of highly stable free nitrogen gas.

Also, nuclear (both fusion and fission) themselves do not produce carbon dioxide, although they may cause surrounding objects to incinerate, which would release carbon dioxide.

See the Web Links to the left of this answer for some impressive videos of different types of explosions, including ones that do and don't produce CO2 emissions!

Another product of what is known as incomplete combustion is CO

CO, or carbon monoxide, can be formed when there is not enough combustion for carbon dioxide, and is extremely poisonous to humans. It is another potential product of an explosion, which is essentially combustion.