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B How does carbon monoxide cause soda cans to explode?

  1. May 13, 2018 #1
    I just read an article about the hazards of the keyless feature on new cars (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/13/...less-cars-and-their-carbon-monoxide-toll.html). Apparently, it can be easy to not know a car is still running in the garage even though one might think that the car must be not running because the key fob is on the person after going into the house. Therefore, there have been deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning. One thing noted in that article was that soda cans can explode in the presence of carbon monoxide. I don't understand what physics are at hand that would cause that to occur. For the cans to explode, the pressure inside must be larger than the pressure outside the cans. If the pressure outside the cans is lower than normal, would not the garage implode before the cans explode or at least cause air to infiltrate the garage instead of imploding? Can anyone explain it to me?

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2018 #2

    Drakkith

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    Hmmm. I've never heard of this before, and a quick google search turned up nothing. I'd remain skeptical for now.
     
  4. May 13, 2018 #3

    russ_watters

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    I would think it was the heat, not the carbon monoxide. Having a car idling in your garage is the equivalent of about 10 electric space heaters.
     
  5. May 13, 2018 #4

    CWatters

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    I note that was attributed to a victims son.

    I can't think of a reason why C0 would cause soda cans to explore. Heat perhaps?
     
  6. May 13, 2018 #5

    sophiecentaur

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    I thought that the emission control would turn the engine off before there was more than a safe level in the garage. Was it just an urban legend that it is now difficult to kill yourself with a tube from the exhaust pipe? Perhaps I am just gullible.
     
  7. May 13, 2018 #6

    Mister T

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    Air would infiltrate, enough to prevent an implosion.

    Look at the photograph of the exploded cans of Pepsi. They all failed at the seam around the lid. Moreover, the Pepsi cans are staked atop other cans that appear to be identical except they contain some other kind of beverage. I can't tell from the little bit of can that shows in the photo, but they appear to cans of soda also. Perhaps Mountain Dew? Can anyone tell?

    I believe Mountain Dew and Pepsi are made by the same company.

    My first guess is that there's a seal around the lid of the Pepsi cans that fails in the presence of carbon monoxide.

    Anyway, everyone should have a CO detector in their home. I have two, one is a dedicated CO detector and the other is part of a smoke detector. I am now seriously thinking about putting one in my garage, too.
     
  8. May 13, 2018 #7
    Yes, maybe that is the answer: the son made the comment that the cans exploded because of the carbon monoxide rather than an expert making that claim and the writer for the NYT did not check it out his statement (I'm shocked!....).
     
  9. May 13, 2018 #8

    russ_watters

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    Must be an urban legend. I can't imagine why - or even how - a car would be programmed to do that.
    [edit]
    I'm wondering though if it is a myth that it is CO that kills you in the common suicide scenario. CO2 seems more likely to me.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2018
  10. May 13, 2018 #9

    russ_watters

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    Well:
    1. Google tells me CO is not corrosive at low concentrations and atmospheric pressure.
    2. As far as I know, the seal is mechanical: it is crimped.
    3. You can see the kids are bulged from being under excessive pressure.
    Agreed.
     
  11. May 13, 2018 #10

    Drakkith

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    There is a sealing compound added to the crimped seal to keep it airtight, but I can't imagine it would cause a can to explode if degraded.
     
  12. May 13, 2018 #11
    I read the article, then came here because I googled that same question. I have a solution to the mystery of the exploded cans.

    A father was living in the house. He was the one who was killed by the CO. The son inspected the house after the incident. He found the exploded soda cans.

    My theory is that those cans had exploded before the CO incident. Perhaps the father had left them in a hot car and they exploded. He just took them and put them in the garage. Later (perhaps years later) the father was killed by CO. So there is no connection between the exploded pepsi cans and CO. Mystery solved.
     
  13. May 13, 2018 #12

    russ_watters

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    Seems unnecessarily convoluted compared to my simpler explanation, to me.
     
  14. May 13, 2018 #13

    Mister T

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    I wouldn't call what I saw in that photo an explosion. If anything, it looks like a safety mechanism was activated to prevent an explosion.
     
  15. May 13, 2018 #14

    Mister T

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    Is what we see in that photo consistent with that explanation? Only the Pepsi cans failed, and all the Pepsi cans failed. And all at the same place, the seam around the lid.
     
  16. May 13, 2018 #15

    CWatters

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    Perhaps the cans froze over winter and ice pushed out the tops?
     
  17. May 13, 2018 #16
    Not a physicist, but it looks like the cans below Pepsi are YooHoo, not carbonated. In the NYT picture, there looks like Pepsi residue on the lids of the cans below- especially on the right (but not as much as one would expect) and little bits of spatter on the package of what looks like paper towels to the left, and plastic sheeting on the right. Heat would make sense, think of all of the heat energy in a gallon of gas, let alone however many were burned while the car was idling. Truly sad, however.
     
  18. May 13, 2018 #17

    Drakkith

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    Am I missing a photo? I don't see a picture that includes soda cans anywhere in the article.
     
  19. May 13, 2018 #18

    russ_watters

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    The Pepsi cans are higher up than the other cans, and stratification is pretty substantial in a situation like this. And there are other potential factors: they may not be identically constructed, the liquids may not be identical and the ones on the bottom may be sitting on something that could conduct heat away.

    Also, if you look closely at the pictures you can see the tops themselves are bent outward, indicating they were substantially pressurized before the crimp let go.

    ...although the article appears to have been edited to remove the photo.
     
  20. May 13, 2018 #19
    The article has been revised to remove the bits about the cans. See https://imgur.com/a/d9w7XWa
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2018
  21. May 13, 2018 #20

    russ_watters

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    It appears to have been removed -- possibly they realized the error in the explanation. I'll see if I can find a copy in my cache or on my cell phone to upload.
     
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