Refrigerator Explosion

Flammable Liquids and Domestic Refrigerators:
An Explosive Combination.


The staff of a biomedical laboratory in the Colchester Research Facility were given an unexpected demonstration of what can happen when flammable liquids are stored in household refrigerators. They came in one morning in June, 2000 to find their laboratory in disarray.
Their first impulse was to call the UVM Police to say that their lab had been vandalized. However, as they examined the situation more closely, they observed that the doors to the laboratory were locked and the damage was centered around the laboratory refrigerator.
Then, they remembered that they had stored about 100 mL of isopentane in the refrigerator the day before in an unsealed container.
Inside the refrigerator was also the thermostat that controlled its motor - a source of ignition if a flammable atmosphere developed inside the refrigerator.
Evidently, the fumes from the isopentane built up until the thermostat gave a spark and the whole refrigerator exploded.
The contents of the refrigerator were spewed across the lab.
The refrigerator itself bounced off the wall it was placed against and rebounded into the room.
The force of the explosion was strong enough to open the flammable storage cabinet across the lab.
Debris was found throughout the lab, although much of it did not break.
Fortunately, the materials in the refrigerator did not include acids and bases which could have done chemical as well as physical damage where they landed.
Some equipment, such as this incubator, was severely damaged by the shock wave of the explosion.
Even the ceiling tiles in neighboring rooms were affected.


The lesson is clear:

Flammable Liquids and Domestic Refrigerators are an Explosive Combination.