CHARLES D. WINTERS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CHARLES D. WINTERS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
An air bag contains a mixture of sodium azide (NaN3), KNO3, and SiO2. A typical driver-side airbag contains approximately 50-80 g of NaN3, with the larger passenger-side airbag containing about 250 g. Within about 40 milliseconds of impact, all these components react in three separate reactions that produce nitrogen gas. The first reaction is the decomposition of NaN3 under high temperature conditions using an electric impulse. This impulse generates to 300 C temperatures required for the decomposition of the NaN3 which produces Na metal and N2 gas. Since Na metal is highly reactive, the KNO3 and SiO2 react and remove it, in turn producing more N2 gas. The final reaction is used to eliminate the K2O and Na2O produced in the previous reactions because the first-period metal oxides are highly reactive. These products react with SiO2 to produce a silicate glass which is a harmless and stable compound.
Model release not required. Property release not required.