A team of chemists from the Czech Republic and Germany made a discovery by filming the reaction with a high-speed camera that captured 10,000 frames a second.
Sodium-in-water is a common chemistry class demonstration and scientists have a solid grasp of what’s happening during the reaction.
When you drop sodium in water you get explosive results.
Yet one team recently discovered an additional step to the process Popular Science reports.
Just before the explosion occurs, spikes of sodium metal shoot out into the water, a team of chemists from the Czech Republic and Germany discovered.
Using a computer model, the team found that when the sodium’s electrons head out into the water, that leaves behind positively charged cations of sodium that are strongly repulsive to each other, the way magnets of the same charge repulse one another.
In their hurry to get away from one another, the sodium cations shoot outward in spikes, in a reaction called a coulomb explosion.
Without the spikes, the team hypothesizes, the explosion might not happen at all.
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