How Does a Dry Ice Bomb Work?

A dry ice bomb is constructed by confining solid carbon dioxide (dry ice) in an enclosed container and allowing it to sublime into gaseous carbon dioxide until the container ruptures. Warm water is used to accelerate the conversion of dry ice, which has a freezing point of -78.5 degrees C (-109.3 degrees F), into gaseous carbon dioxide. Dry ice bombs are usually created for entertainment purposes or as improvised weapons.

Dry ice generates large volumes of carbon dioxide when it sublimes. One ounce of solid carbon dioxide forms approximately 15 liters of gaseous carbon dioxide. Therefore, dry ice heated in an enclosed space will generate sufficient pressure to violently rupture its container. The resulting explosion generates a supersonic shock wave that can be extremely loud, and ejects shrapnel and debris at a high rate of speed.

Since dry ice bombs require manual mixing of the two components, there is a high probability of premature explosion with the potential to injure or kill the person handling the device. The delay before the explosion can be difficult to predict due to differences in ambient temperature, volume of dry ice, and volume of water. Furthermore, dry ice bombs are illegal in many jurisdictions due to their potential to cause serious injury or death.