Dry ice bombs are made by placing dry ice and water in a bottle and sealing the bottle so no gas can escape. Pressure builds up due to the dry ice releasing gas and eventually the container explodes.
Dry ice bombs can be incredibly dangerous and are illegal in some states and countries. Always take extreme care when making a dry ice bomb and ensure you and other people are far away when it explodes.
What Is a Dry Ice Bomb?
If you haven't seen a dry ice bomb before you might be wondering what exactly it is:
A dry ice bomb is a plastic container filled with dry ice and water that is then sealed off. As the dry ice releases gas pressure builds up. This leads to a large explosion when the container bursts much like how a balloon bursts when blown up too much only much more dangerous.
Dry ice bombs are usually made from plastic containers as these are the least dangerous as they explode at lower pressures and the shrapnel from the explosion is less dangerous.
Materials like glass and metal are much more dangerous when they explode due to sharper denser shrapnel as well as a potentially larger buildup of pressure before the explosion.
How To Make A Dry Ice Bomb
Dry ice bombs are extremely simple devices and contain just a few ingredients. Always take extreme precautions if and when making dry ice bombs and consult local laws before making.
To make a dry ice bomb you'll need:
- Dry ice
- Empty plastic bottle
- Protective eyewear
- A field or large abandoned area
- BB gun
1. Fill Up Bottle 1/3-1/2 Full of Water
To begin fill up a water bottle 1/3 to 1/2 full of water. Ideally use room temperature water but warm water can also be used, but this adds to the danger as the handler.
Water speeds up the rate at which dry ice sublimates (turns into a gas) making the explosion happen faster.
Warm water makes dry ice sublimate extremely quickly and could cause the bomb to go off in your hand which can cause serious damage.
You can create dry ice bombs without water however it'll take a lot longer for the dry ice bomb to explode.
2. Break Up Dry Ice Into Small Chunks
Using a hammer break up the dry ice into small chunks so it can fit in the mouth of the bottle.
Make sure you wear protective gloves and eyewear when handling dry ice.
At -109.3ºF (-78.5ºC) dry ice is so cold it can burn your skin and cause frostbite and if any gets in your eyes then it can cause blindness. So protective gloves and eyewear are a must.
3. Place Dry Ice In Bottle (Leaving Lid Off)
Now place a good amount of dry ice into the bottle ensuring you leave the lid off at this stage so no pressure can build up.
You'll want to use a decent amount of dry ice to ensure enough pressure builds up for an explosion.
If you use too little dry ice the container may not explode making it a hazard. It is not safe to approach a dry ice bomb that has not exploded as it can blow at any time without warning.
So use a generous amount of dry ice.
4. Compress Bottle With Your Hands
Before screwing the lid on it's a good idea to first compress the container with your hands by squeezing it.
This gives you more time once the container is seal for you to get far away from the dry ice bomb before it explodes.
5. Screw Lid Onto Bottle
Quickly screw the lid tight onto the container. Do not waste time here, this needs to be done quickly as you don't want the container blowing up in your hand.
6. Quickly Get a Far Distance From The Bomb
Once the lid is screwed on place the dry ice bomb down and get far away from the bomb so you are not impacted by the explosion.
7. Use BB Gun If Explosion Doesn't Happen
Sometimes the dry ice bomb won't explode. If this happens the best idea is to shoot the plastic container with a BB gun from a distance.
Approaching the dry ice bomb is dangerous as it can explode at any moment without warning and you should not handle the bomb once pressure has built up.
Can Dry Ice Cause Explosions?
Yes, dry ice can build up pressure as it sublimates into gas. If enough pressure has built up and the contain it is stored in breaks this can lead to a large explosion as pressure is released in one quick burst.
It's almost impossible for dry ice to make a cooler explode as coolers aren't airtight. But plastic and glass bottles can easily explode from dry ice and even metal containers have the potential to explode when enough pressure has built up.
Are Dry Ice Bombs Dangerous?
Dry ice bombs are dangerous due to the fact the release a lot of pressure extremely quickly and can send shrapnel flying at high speeds in all directions.
Bomb rupture time is highly variant and unpredictable and can explode in a matter of seconds or take minutes to explode.
If a dry ice bomb explodes in your hand or close to your body it can cause severe bodily harm.
Dry ice bombs made in glass containers are especially dangerous due to the sharp shrapnel that is ejected from the bomb when it explodes.
Why Do Dry Ice Bombs Explode?
Dry ice bombs explode because dry ice sublimates and releases gas at room temperatures. When placed in a sealed container the gas has nowhere to go which leads to a buildup of pressure. Eventually the container breaks and pressure is released in a quick explosion.
When you add warm water to the container this speeds up the sublimation of the dry ice. Gas is released more quickly causing pressure to build up at a faster rate and leading to a quicker and less predictable explosion.
It works in the same way as blowing up a balloon too much. The pressure builds and eventually the balloon pops. But in this case it's usually a plastic bottle that pops and the pressure release is much more extreme than a regular balloon and thus much more dangerous.
How Long Does It Take For Dry Ice Bombs To Explode?
Dry ice bombs usually take 5 seconds to 5 minutes to explode. Dry ice bombs with water explode faster than those without. Warm water speeds up the process even more making a faster explosion more likely. It's impossible to tell exactly when a dry ice bomb will explode.
Occasionally a dry ice bomb will fail to explode. In these circumstances it becomes a serious hazard and you should not approach or touch the dry ice bomb, but you also shouldn't leave it.
A BB gun can be a good way to puncture the dry ice bomb from a distance forcing the explosion.
Below you can see a YouTuber using a BB gun to force a dry ice bomb to explode. However, the bomb spontaneously explodes without him actually shooting it.
This perfectly demonstrates the unpredictability of dry ice bombs and the caution you should take at all times.
Are Dry Ice Bombs Legal?
If you're going to be making dry ice bombs it's important to consider the legality of them so you don't end up on the wrong side of the law.
Dry ice bombs are illegal in many areas especially if there is an intent to cause injury, death or damage to property. Making a dry ice bomb can be seen as “possession of an explosive device” or “public endangerment”. Use of dry ice bombs in public can result in criminal charges.
Every country and state has different rules on dry ice bombs.
Several states including California and Utah prohibit the use of dry ice bombs and you could suffer criminal charges for creating this type of homemade explosive.
Below is a news report video where 4 boys were arrested for throwing a dry ice bomb into a moving car and 2 were charged with misdemeanors. The dry ice bomb exploded into the driver's face and the boys had a $1 million bail!
“We booked them for possession of explosive device with intent to terrify or cause injury”Jim Amormino (Spokesperson, Orange Country, CA Sheriff's Department
California lists “[any] sealed device containing dry ice (CO2) or other chemically reactive substances assembled for the purpose of causing an explosion by a chemical reaction” as a “destructive device” or “weapon” according to Penal Code Section 12301-12316.