It’s terrifyingly efficient.
The above Slow Mo Lab video shows, what’s on the surface, a pretty simple process – sulphuric acid is poured onto a sponge and it quickly disintegrates it, leaving just a black smoking mess.
We all know acid burns things, but what exactly is going on here?
As Esther Inglis-Arkell explains for io9, it all comes down to the way the acid reacts with water.
This is because acid is dense than water, so combining the two leaves the water sitting on top of the layer of acid it’s reacting with.
The reaction involves the acid, in this case sulphuric acid – which has a chemical formula of H2SO4 – donating a proton to the water, turning it into H3O+. This particular reaction gives off a lot of heat, which can cause the water to boil.
What does this have to do with the sponge? A lot, actually. The sponge contains cellulose, which is made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Because sulphuric acid wants to react with water so badly, it actually rips the hydrogen and oxygen molecules off the cellulose, causing it to disintegrate.
The footage is pretty awesome anyway, but when you know what’s going on behind the scenes, we think it’s even cooler.