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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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March 24, 2006

Explosion News

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Posted by Derek

It's a busy news day. Word is this morning (EST) that there's been a huge explosion at a chemistry building at the ENSC of Mulhouse, in Alsace in eastern France - an old and well-known chemical engineering school. One faculty member appears to have been killed, and there are several injuries. The building looks to have been severely damaged, and local residents are saying that the explosion was heard all over town and felt like an earthquake.

I've been looking at some news reports, but no one's reporting on what caused the blast. This sounds like much more than a typical batch-of-something-in-the-hood going up, though, that's for sure. If any readers can shed some technical light on this in the comments, I'd be grateful.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Current Events


1. Paul Dietz on March 25, 2006 9:43 PM writes...

According to some news reports, the location of the explosion hints it may have been due to a leak of ethylene. I presume if enough ethylene leaks and mixes with air in the correct proportions the explosion would be akin to a fuel-air explosive bomb.

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2. Nobody on March 25, 2006 10:05 PM writes...

Looks like a leaking ethylene tank is suspected.

Google search for (+"ENSC" +"Alsace" +"explosion") gives some French stories.

Here are a couple story ledes run through Google translation.

URL for the search result:

Couple of story ledes:

Explosion at the school of chemistry of Mulhouse: a suspect ethylene bottle (AFP, Saturday March 25, 2006, 13h36)
An ethylene bottle was discovered by the investigators at the central point of the explosion which made a death and blessée engraves Friday at the laboratory of the higher national School of chemistry (ENSC) of Mulhouse, indicated to Saturday the public prosecutor of Mulhouse.

Ethylene suspected after the explosion on the campus of Mulhouse (Reuters, Saturday March 25, 2006, 13h27)

MULHOUSE (Reuters) - a leakage on an ethylene bottle could be at the origin of the violent explosion which made a death and a casualty engraves Friday at the higher national School of chemistry of Mulhouse in Haut-Rhin, estimates the parquet floor of the city.

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3. Anon on March 26, 2006 12:11 AM writes...

I can't figure out who the professor who died was. Can anyone shed any light on this? I've been scouring google news for the last few days to no avail, half the articles seem to make the mistake that she was a man (presumably guessing).

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4. LMM on March 26, 2006 7:23 PM writes...

Tiny URL for the above Google link:

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5. Tot. Syn. on March 30, 2006 5:42 PM writes...

One presumes that by "a bottle of ethylene", they mean a cylinder. And when one of those go up... yeah, you get the picture. Apparently, when a N2 or Ar cylinder breaks its regulator, it can go from 0-80mph in 1 second. Switch that for an explosive gas, and you've got a bomb.
The researcher who died (still no name) was in the room above.
BTW, I like your blog a lot. I've just started one at: . Check it out!

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