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topic 53795 p.3

Want a chemical that heats up when mixed with water

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A discussion started in 2009 but continuing through 2020

September 6, 2018

Q. I should make a chemical/mechanical device which works in such a way that an exothermic chemical reaction automatically starts within stipulated time. The energy released should effectively heat the given water (500 ml).
Any suggestions?

Naveed Khaja
Osmania University - Hyderabad, Telangana, India

September 2018

A. Hi cousin Naveed. Is your question how to initiate the reaction after some stipulated time -- like how to build some sort of mechanical or chemical timer?

What is this device made of, what is its purpose and function, and what range of time delay do you seek. Thanks!


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

September 14, 2018

Q. Sir, device in the sense compartment for reaction to take place. You need not worry about that. Just suggest me a reaction through which heat is released which is good enough to heat water which is placed in other compartment.

Naveed Khaja [returning]
- Hyderabad, Telangana, India

September 2018

A. Jake Blade, James Watts, Willie Alexander, and Geoff Smith have already generously volunteered their time answering that question. Please request clarification of anything that was said that is confusing you, or comment on anything that you disagree with, rather than starting over. Thanks!


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

February 9, 2019

A. Caution:
Sodium acetate and water
NaOH + NaHSO4 => Na2SO4 + H20 (ends up with water)
Steel wool and Table salt and a little water
Sodium , Lithium, even Tritium.

I have used all of these in many different situations. And maybe a few others. My caution is don't try to get a 5 or 6 second reaction with a massive BTU output. usually if it goes right it soon ends up dangerous and wrong. it can be compared to nuclear reactions. slow is good and controllable and fast is BOOM.

Gerald Spaulding, Maintenance tech for Modi bag, Retired
Repair and get things running again - Independence, Missouri

February 17, 2019

Q. I am looking for a combination of resin powder and a chemical that can, upon mixing with water, create enough heat to melt the resins (there will be another wood based powder in this mix that will bond with the melted resin). Should be safe for humans afterward. Any suggestions to guide me in the proper direction? Thanks!

luis perez
- Fountain Valley, California USA

August 22, 2019

Q. Many years ago we used a heating pad that was activated with a teaspoon of water. These pads are available on e-bay as military surplus usually from the 1950s and '60s. Could you point me in the direction of what chemical was used? It seems I remember whatever was in the pad was large grain or in beads. Thank you. Mike L.

Michael Kelley
- Whitehall, Montana, USA

September 5, 2019

Q. I am just curious:
Was thinking about arctic exposure and ways to insulate clothing that could be worn in the arctic. My thinking may have went off course but I was wondering if there is an element off the p-table or a combination of elements that will have a exothermic reaction when exposed to temperatures say lower than 32 °F? Similar to warming gloves but maintains the heat until removed from said temperature? Or at least until the O2 is cut off (providing that O2 is in the equation). I am not a chemist, I was just watching a show on Siberia last night and woke up thinking about this (what can be created to help people survive in cold weather scenarios).

Thank you,

Rob Cole
- Pinellas Park, Florida

October 8, 2019

Q. I want to know if there is any chemical that can be added to water to make it hot and is perfectly safe to drink. I think it will be useful in winters.

Bhargav krishna
- new delhi, india

October 2019

A. Hi Bhargav. There is no chemical that is perfectly safe to eat or drink in unlimited quantity. But Geoff and others have mentioned heating agents that have been included in food and where to find more info about them. If those references didn't answer your question, please carefully detail exactly what scenario you have in mind and ask for clarification about the particulars. Thanks!


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

October 9, 2019

Q. Sir, I want to know if alkaline can be turned and stored as a powder or small pellets. Also I want to know if it has any reaction to aluminium and iron with or without water? Thank you. I am asking this if I can add alkaline to water and store it in can?

bhargav krishna [returning]
- new delhi, india

October 2019

A. Hi again. Alkali will attack and destroy aluminum; it has essentially no bad effect on steel.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

October 10, 2019

Hi Bhargav,

'Alkaline' isn't any specific substance; it's a descriptor for substances with a pH above neutral in water, or with the ability to counteract acidity, so there is no answer to your question until you ask it in a more precise way.

I get the feeling you are bringing this up because of that whole 'alkaline water' health fad -thanks in part to Gwyneth Paltrow for the 'expert' advice that also includes sticking coffee up your bum, so take her [utterly stupid oops did I say that out loud?] advice with a grain of salt... wish she'd just stick with acting...
IMVHO the alkaline water craze, which also apparently requires you to own a fancy 'alkaline water bottle' that costs a minimum $50 USD, is just about the stupidest cash grabby joke played on consumers since the days of the snake oil salesmen. I mean, your digestive system only works because of the strongly acidic environment your body creates, and by the time your 'alkaline water' gets past your stomach, it sure ain't alkaline any more!!

But back to the question at hand. What is your source of alkalinity? What is your can made of? And how strong a solution are you trying to make?

If you add sodium bicarbonate to water and store it in a can made of stainless steel it's a VERY different situation than adding lye to water and storing it in a can made of aluminum (which won't be a can for long!), and so on, even though both examples are in line with your question. I don't even want to say which one is safer because I don't want to encourage this trend!!! But sodium bicarb is just baking soda and goes in food all the time and won't react with stainless... might not taste the greatest but a pinch in your water bottle won't kill you. Maybe a little weirdly salty. Eww have fun with that lol!

Please, without a basic understanding of chemistry, don't try to make DIY health drinks (of dubious value) out of substances you don't understand completely. You can harm yourself badly. Please don't fall for the alkaline water silliness, watching these health fads come and go when good nutrition is already right in front of us... it just hurts my head and actually makes me wish for the old days (by which I mean probably last month ?) when we at just tried to figure out how to get that black stuff off those bank notes... ;)

Rachel Mackintosh
Plating Solutions Control Specialist / Industrial Waste Water Treatment - Brattleboro, Vermont

October 2019

A. Thanks Rachael, good advice. 'Nature' just retracted a 1988 article they published which had made claims about structured water. Apparently the world agrees with you. But I think Bhargav wants to use an alkaline material to self-heat water based on his earlier posting.

BTW, some of those people with black banknotes aren't as credulous as you think. Many of them understand that most of the stuff in the trunk is just black paper; they just know that their real money is still mixed in with it and they just want that portion cleaned. The scammers couldn't possibly have left with their money because they kept it under watchful eye :-)


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

October 13, 2019

Q. Thanks ted and rachel for your valuable answers. I dropped the idea of alkaline. I just want to make a prototype of heat can for irani chai and coffee. after reading all threads, I have these questions left:(please)

1. how much time does calcium oxide(quick lime), calcium chloride and calcium carbide take to heat respectively?

2. do they heat faster if we increase their ratio to that of water?

3. do they leave any residue behind and how safe it is?

4. which of them is the safest and has faster, higher boiling potential

thank you.

bhargav krishna [returning]
- new delhi

October 14, 2019

Hi, I'm in 7th grade and we are doing a project to create hot packs. I need a chemical that when mixed with water creates heat. I prefer something that's not too harmful and heats up to 131 °F or 55 °C. please, and thanks.

Avery T [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- kansas city, Missouri

October 14, 2019

A. Hi Avery,

Anhydrous copper sulfate (CuSO4) will heat up rapidly when water is added to it forming CuSO4·5H2O.

A small amount of it (half a teaspoon) with about that much water should heat up enough that it becomes too hot to handle (as my chemistry teacher once demonstrated using an unfortunate volunteer).

You can acquire anhydrous copper sulfate by heating up CuSO4·5H2O in a crucible over a bunsen burner. It should go from blue crystals to white-grey powder.

You could vary the amount of CuSO4 and water to control the temperature it reaches.

Double check with your science teacher that it is indeed safe, but as far as I'm aware it is relatively safe to work with as long as you wear your safety glasses and gloves.

Ben OShea
- Katikati, New Zealand

October 20, 2019

Q. Hello from Canada. My name is Robert and I was wondering if there is a safe chemical to jump start the boiling water in a steam car like a Stanley steamer so there is a limited time before getting up a head of steam?

Robert Fear
- Nova Scotia Canada

October 2019

A. Hi Robert. An interesting concept, but a remaining problem is that such a "jump start" is a drop in the bucket. The latent heat of vaporization of water is 970 BTU/lb. whereas raising that pound of water all the way from 33 °F to 212 °F takes 179 BTU/lb., so even if you were able to achieve total efficiency in your process, the best you could hope for is supplying a small fraction of the necessary heat.

But, yes, chemically heating the water could get you started sooner. Still, considering the scaling you would have to expect from any such chemical, and the limited advantage of hot water, I think you'd find it more practical to plan on just instantaneously heating a tiny slipstream of the water, rather than preheating all of it.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

February 4, 2020

Q. Hi, this is a very interesting conversation. I was looking for something that when mixed with water can raise its temperature and can then be used for cleaning. I thought about quicklime but then I think it would not be useful for cleaning.

Ankit Gaur
- Highlands Ranch, Colorado USA

simultaneous February 5, 2020

A. Hi Ankit,

You may dissolve caustic soda with water (say 5% w/v) which is exothermic reaction for cleaning purpose.


David SHIU
- Singapore

February 5, 2020

Calcium oxide (quicklime) was used in the middle ages as a defensive weapon - it can blind you if it gets in your eyes. Calcium carbide with water generates acetylene, extremely flammable and in contact with certain metals produces highly sensitive and unstable explosives.

There is a mountain of information available on steam boilers and control of the water they used from the days when steam ran the world. I think the answer to your question is the "Flash Boiler" which was used in some early automobiles. You might find interesting.

Wikepedia has a very good article on hand warmers

Remember: generating heat is one thing, controlling it is another. Please be careful.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England

February 5, 2020

thumbs up sign Thanks, these comments were very helpful.

Ankit Gaur
- Highlands Ranch, Colorado USA

Boiling water

March 20, 2020

Q. Looking for the chemical or thing, when mixing it with water start, water should start self-heating up to its boiling point and that water should be drinkable. Is there any other safe ways then also suggest.

Akshay Patel
Researcher - Ahmedabad, India

March 2020

thumbs up sign Hi Akshay. Welcome! But sorry, simply starting over 3 years and 60+ postings later usually achieves nothing but delivering the kiss of death to a posting because people have already invested a lot of their time & effort on detailed responses. So, instead, please try to keep it interesting by explaining exactly what idea you have in mind, and by asking for clarification on something someone has posted. Thanks!


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

What chemical that mixed w/water produces a heat signature that is not harmful to the human touch?

July 27, 2020

Q. Looking for specific a chemical that when mixed with water or alcohol produces a heat signature that shows up in a thermal image outdoors. Hopefully will not leave a by-product, and has the consistency of a liquid. This probably would be an exothermic reaction of an ester or other, with water or alcohol. Ideally the heat signature can last 4-6 hours, but could be less and reapplied if necessary. Something that can produce heat signature of 100 plus degrees, but will not hurt or harm human skin.

Greg Miller
- Vernon Hills Illinois

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