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The Madera Tribune

Some hot air about canned air

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webmaster | 04/19/12

One of the things I’ve had a hard time coming to grips with, until recently, is how the office supply stores can get away with charging $6 a can for air. I’m talking about those cans of air that one buys to help keep computers and other work surfaces clean by rearranging the dust.

Where does the dust go once you blow it? Not far, it turns out. The dust and micro-debris blown from a computer keyboard, for example, usually land on some other surface about a foot away, which will have to be cleaned again by more $6-a-can compressed air.

However, not is all as it seems to be when it comes to a can of compressed air.

First, it isn’t air at all. The can, as the label clearly points out, is full of difluoroethene, which online sources point out is a refrigerant as well as the principal agent in “gas dusters,” as one website calls them.

You might wonder why difluoroethene must be used instead of good old air. The answer is that good old air is a little too moist for good old gas dusting. You can demonstrate this yourself by trying to blow off your computer keyboard by taking a deep breath, pursing your lips and blowing up close on your keyboard. You will find it is hard not to spit on your keyboard while moving a few crumbs around. If you happen to have an air compressor, you will know that water collects in the tank and the lines. Water is known to short out electronics when it gets sprayed all over them.

Difluoroethene carries much less moisture, and also is not as hard on the environment as some fluorocarbons are supposed to be.

Just don’t huff your canned difluoroethene, or you might drop over from a heart attack. Also, don’t use it while smoking or you may set your lips on fire.

Why do people still call it canned air? Try calling it canned difluoroethene, and you’ll know why.


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