How Silver Carbide Is Prepared


Jul 9, 2023

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silver carbide, also known as silver acetylide, is an explosive compound containing a very strong bond between the silver atom and carbon. Unlike most chemical explosives that require confinement to detonate, dry silver acetylide maintains a high energy density and will explode upon contact with air. Silver acetylide also has a very low melting point, and is therefore quite sensitive to shock and friction.

To prepare a solution of silver acetylide, one first dissolves a small amount of silver nitrate in nitric acid, which is then diluted several times such that the resulting liquid has an ionic concentration of less than 20%. A piece of pure calcium carbide is then added to this solution, and the whole mixture is VERY LOOSELY capped in a glass bottle, such that the pressure produced by the reaction presses water out of the bottle and the acetylene gas bubbles into the acidic silver solution.

The acetylene gas is then slowly bubbled through the solution, and solid silver acetylide precipitates from the solution. This is a very coarse precipitate, which will easily settle in the bottom of a test tube when rinsing with distilled water. The acidic solution that remains can be decanted and either flushed down the drain, or it can be disposed of at a proper waste processing facility. The silver acetylide is then a very powerful explosive, and students who understand the Van Arkel-Ketelaar bonding triangle will be surprised to find that it contains an unexpected bond between silver and carbon.