JUL 17, 2018 5:01 PM PDT

The Chemistry in Airbags

The name "airbag" can be deceiving because the bag is not exactly filled with air. Instead, this life-saving device is filled with nitrogen gas, which is produced in a swift reaction by a compound known as sodium azide.

Sodium azide is a stable salt at ambient temperature. Under the circumstance of vehicle collisions, the trigger mechanism would heat up the powder, which leads to a sudden release a large amount of nitrogen within milliseconds. Based on the chemical equation 2 NaN3 --> 2 Na + 3 N2, a cup of the compound can easily produce enough nitrogen gas to fill a standard airbag, which is close to 70 liters.

But the other product of the reaction sodium is not a benign chemical. In fact, it is so reactive it can light up when in touch with water. Therefore, in the airbags retarding agents are mixed in with sodium azide to quench the potentially hazardous sodium. After all, no one wishes to be safe from a vehicle collision but get a chemical burn afterward.

Source: ACS Reactions via Youtube

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
OCT 16, 2019
Technology
OCT 16, 2019
Paper-based technology can sense iron levels in fortified foods
In many low-income nations, mass food fortification programs have grown to address issues surrounding poor nutrition address nutrient in their populations....
OCT 25, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 25, 2019
Fridge without Liquid Coolant: How a "Twisted" Idea can Revolutionize Refrigeration Technology
In the middle of the night, the low-pitched hum from the fridge compressor is likely the most common noise in every household. The fridge's cooling sys...
DEC 03, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 03, 2019
Wanna Venture Outside of the Solar System? Try a "Skyhook"
Rocket engines are expensive to build, and their speed and the distance of travel are also limited by their own weight and the fuel they carry. But there&#...
DEC 08, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 08, 2019
NASA's Parker Solar Probe Reveals Telling Clues About Our Sun
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is currently the closest spacecraft to the Sun today. Being this close gives the spacecraft an unprecedented opportunity to...
JAN 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 02, 2020
Mushroom Chemistry: Pick Your Poison, or Not
Consuming wild mushrooms is largely frowned upon because it can lead to food poisoning. Its consequence ranges from vomiting and diarrhea to death within d...
JAN 15, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
JAN 15, 2020
Treating Malaria: Molecular Understanding of Drug Interactions
Crystallization is a process central to drug development that despite centuries of facilitating a particular method, chemists are still learning how to gra...
Loading Comments...