How do party snaps (aka snap-n-pops) work?

by | Feb 18, 2011 07:06 PM ET

You Asked:

How do party snaps work? --- Boris, New York, N.Y.

Marshall Brain Answers:

The video shows you party snaps, also called snap-n-pops, in action:

Here's what happens if you snap one in your mouth:

Of course, most kids immediately imagine making a bomb out of them, by unwrapping the paper and combining them together. Here is what happens:

So what's inside? One thing you could use is nitrogen triiodide, as seen here:

In the movie “Salt”, could Evelyn Salt really create an exploding missile like that with ammonia?

The problem is that nitrogen triiodide is a little too sensitive. So snap-n-pops usually use silver fulminate (AgCNO) instead, as shown here:

As he mentions, sand particles are coated in the silver fulminate, giving the pop a little weight when you throw it. The sand also makes the explosion even less dangerous than it would be if the explosive was concentrated.

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