How An Unopened Can of Soda Thrown Into An Industrial Smelter Could Cause A Significant Thermal Explosion?


One of my shop teachers back in high school said he used to work in a recycling plant and the biggest boogie men of the industry was having an unopened can of soda hitting a smelter at max temp. He told us the resulting explosion would be enough to take out the entire recycling facility. Is this even possible?

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I don’t know about taking out a whole facility, but I bet it could clear a room. An unopened can of soda would boil instantly when it hit the heat, causing the sealed can to fill with superheated water far above its boiling temperature. As soon as the can inevitably fails, all that water boils and expands rapidly into steam. The can fragments like a grenade while the steam escapes, burning anything it touches on the way out.

When the can melts it’s contents instantly turns to steam. The expansion ratio is about 1700 to 1. So imagine in the middle molten metal when that can melts through there is an instant volume increase as big as 1700 soda cans.

Others have pointed out the steam expansion issue.

The other problem is that the can will be mixed in with the rest of the material, so there will be liquid metal on top of the rapidly expanding steam.

This actually happened in the materials lab at my school. It wasn’t much but some of the aluminum they used had some trapped moisture. My TA was assisting (they didn’t feed the furnace with students in the building) and he said the aluminum hit the ceiling and splashed back down. The epoxy floor had small craters in it.

This was a small furnace and a few drops so no one got hurt, but I assume that someone needed a change of pants.

As part of the safety session before the casting labs we watched footage of actual industrial furnace explosions.

Heres a video of a water bottle being tossed into a vat or molten metal, big badaboom

Can confirm. I used to work at aluminum recycling many years back.

Wet material placed into a furnace of molten aluminum causes explosions of molten metal to fly out.

In the winter when everything was covered in snow, you had to be extremely careful when loading the furnace….