Since the supposedly unrippable plastic £5 note hit the streets, people up and down the country have been doing their best to put that claim to the test – but not many have gone to these lengths.
Scientists from the University of Nottingham have decided to test the new note to its limits, to find out – just how much tougher is it than the old paper model?
Wow, that legal tender took a real beating. As the professor, Sir Martin Poliakoff, points out – the results of the tests were quite intriguing too.
First of all there was the liquid nitrogen test, and this ended much as you might expect. Nitrogen becomes a liquid at around -196°C (-321°F) – so to say this made the fiver freezing cold would be an understatement. Unsurprisingly, this meant the frozen polymer shattered when struck with a hammer.
What was surprising to the scientists though was the reaction the plastic note had with fuming nitric acid. This is a concentrated version of nitric acid with nitrogen oxides dissolved into it.
The substance is highly corrosive and poisonous, but surprisingly it was the new fiver which took the most damage from this, while the old paper one kept much of its appearance.
Though the acid is powerful, it seems the core to the new £5 note is still durable enough to withstand it.
The acid’s properties make it a powerful cleaning agent and amazingly after light cleaning in water, the scientists were left with a clear note with no markings or any sign of the Queen’s face whatsoever.
The results are quite fascinating for the plastic note, but the acid also had a profound effect on the old paper note.
Fuming nitric acid is such a powerful oxidising agent it is sometimes used in rocket propellants and, as Professor Poliakoff points out, by magicians. Oxidising agents allow substances to combust more rapidly, and this is the exact effect which was seen in the paper note.
The video was posted to the YouTube channel Periodic Videos. Check it out for more videos.