What makes a stink bomb stink?

Stink bombsJust crush one of these glass ampules and the dreadful aroma of hydrogen sulphide will send folks scurrying from the scene. That classic stench of rotten eggs is produced when the ammonium sulphide in the stink bomb breaks down to hydrogen sulphide and ammonia. Commercially, this ammonium sulphide solution is prepared by the exact reversal of that reaction. Hydrogen sulphide gas, either isolated from natural gas where it is a common contaminant, or produced by reacting iron sulphide with hydrochloric acid, is bubbled into a solution of ammonia. The resulting ammonium sulphide can be stored in a suitably sealed container .

Ammonium sulphide is an unstable compound and decomposes into ammonia and hydrogen sulphide.. An equilibrium is established between the hydrogen sulphide in the headspace of the container and that dissolved in the solution. As soon as the container is broken, the dissolved ammonium sulphide rapidly decomposes and liberates copious amounts of the smelly gas. Really, really stinky, but also dangerous. Hydrogen sulphide is one of the most toxic gases known and can be lethal. Stink bombs, however, aren’t likely to kill people because not all that much gas is produced, and the gas quickly disperses.

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