Professor of Chemistry Michelle Francl is among the experts The Washington Post turned to to explain the explosion and fire at a flooded Texas chemical plant in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
The article explains that liquid organic peroxides were the cause of the blast.
From the article:
Bryn Mawr’s Chemistry Department has a more than century-long tradition of combining high quality, visible research programs with excellent teaching. The Chemistry Department seeks to provide a supportive and rigorous curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate level to students having diverse preparation and diverse goals.
Michelle Francl, a chemistry professor at Bryn Mawr, has an antique glass container labeled “peroxide” in her office. A laboratory safety officer who caught sight of the jar almost bolted until Francl gave her assurances that it was scrubbed clean. Had it contained dry peroxide, she said, the jar could have combusted at a jolt.
“Peroxides are basically tiny little molecular canisters of oxygen,” Francl said. “They’re designed to break apart and be highly reactive. It’s like having a whole bunch of fragile glass molecules.”