8 December – Christmas Crackers

There’s chemical connection between today’s Chemistry Advent and yesterday’s! 

The silvering effect used to make silver baubles requires the use of Tollens’ reagent, which is made with silver nitrate solution, sodium hydroxide solution, and a dilute ammonia solution. This reagent must be freshly prepared, as on standing it tends to form fulminating silver, an explosive compound.

Fulminating silver and silver fulminate are commonly thought to refer to the exact same thing, but in the case of Tollens’ reagent decomposing, it’s actually a mixture including explosive silver nitride that’s produced – not silver fulminate!

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