Fun with SULFUR HEXAFLUORIDE (the Anti-Helium)

Sulfur hexafluoride is a non-toxic, invisible gas that you can use to perform interesting chemistry demonstrations.

– Breathe it in and make your voice much deeper when you talk.

– Pour it into a container and float an airplane or a ship on ‘nothing’.

In a way, it is like the anti-helium gas, because while helium is about six times lighter than air, sulfur hexafluoride is six times heavier.sulfur hexafluorideFacts on Sulfur Hexafluoride :

  • Inorganic compound with a chemical formula SF6
  • Non-polar gas
  • Non-toxic, odourless, colorless
  • non-flammable at room temperature and pressure
  • Octahedral geometry
  • Poorly soluble in water; soluble in nonpolar organic solvents
  • Density of 6.13 g/L at sea level

Fun Things to Try with Sulfur Hexafluoride :

  • Float Your Boat :

Pour sulfur hexafluoride into an aquarium or large beaker. It is heavier than air, so it will sink. You can float light objects on the invisible gas, such as a paper airplane or a boat made from aluminum foil. If you use a cup to scoop up some of the sulfur hexafluoride and dump it into a foil boat, you can sink it.

sulfur hexafluoride

  • Talk or Sing with a Deep Voice :

Sulfur hexafluoride is more dense than air, so sound travels through it more slowly. If you breathe in a lungful of sulfur hexafluoride, your voice will become much deeper. Even though sulfur hexafluoride is non-toxic, you need to use care when performing this demonstration to avoid hypoxia and fainting (the same caution applies to helium). Don’t breathe the gas for prolonged periods of time.

This one is a must watch:  https://youtu.be/u19QfJWI1oQ where people talk like Darth Vader(A Star War’s character)



What does sulfur hexafluoride do to your voice?

This is the inert gas that is six times heavier than the air we breath. If you breath in helium (six times lighter than the air we breath), the pitch of your voice goes up. However, if you breath sulfur hexafluoride (six time heavier than normal air), your voice sounds low.

Other interesting facts :
  1. Dihydrogen sulfide and other organic sulfides contribute to the smell of rotten eggs, onions, garlic and skunks.
  2. In naturally curly hair, protein cross links form between amino acids to form S-S covalent bonds. The greater number of these links present, give the hair the curliness and the texture. When you straighten your hair you force these strong disulfide bonds to be altered temporarily. When you get a perm, or curl your hair, you are adding more disulfide bonds (hence the bad smell of the chemicals).
  3. The color of Jupiter’s moon (Io) is yellow, because the surface is covered in sulfur and compounds of sulfur. The volcanos of this moon spew molten sulfur and S02.
  4. Without sulfur, rubber used to be a useless liquid. By combining sulfur with rubber latex, the rubber liquid was made into hard material and this made it possible to make rubber tires.
  5. Sulfur mixed with iron looks like real gold. In fact, they call it “fools gold” because many people used to find such rocks and believed them to be real gold.

sulfur hexafluoride

Where Can You Get Sulfur Hexafluoride?

Sulfur hexafluoride is a specialty gas, used in medicine for eye surgery and ultrasound imaging; in industry as a tracer gas, dielectric, and as an etchant; and mixed with argon as an insulator between layers of windows. It has enough uses that you may be able to find it at a store that sells specialty gasses (try the yellow pages), such as oxygen, argon, and nitrogen.

-Shreesha Balan

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3 Comments

Taran · May 1, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Floating a paper plane on a heavy gas sounds like a bunch of fun also I had no idea that is how fools gold comes to be. I’m going to check if it is sold by the chem supply store down the road.
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Conchita Meyerhoffer · May 30, 2018 at 1:53 am

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