Also, on the recommendation of a friend of mine, I recently finished "The Martian" by Andy Weir. It's a very quick read and a fun story about an astronaut, Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars during a NASA mission gone bad. There aren't any monsters or aliens, just one guy, some computers, some astronomy and, surprisingly (or not), lots of chemistry. Here he is, making some hydrogen to make some water by using an iridium catalyst:
...I turned the valve until a trickle of hydrazine came out. I let one drop fall into the iridium bowl. It undramatically sizzled and disappeared. But hey, that's what I wanted, I just freed up hydrogen and nitrogen. Yay!
...With my mini-torch in hand, I started a slow hydrazine flow. It sizzled on the iridium and disappeared. Soon I had short bursts of flame sputtering from the chimney.
The main thing I had to watch was the temperature. Hydrazine breaking down is extremely exothermic. So I did it a bit at a time, constantly watch the readout of a thermocouple I'd attached to the iridium chamber. Point is, the process worked!Of course, what process doesn't have a few process upsets? (To find out what happens and so I can avoid spoilers, you'll have to read the book.)
Chemistry plays a pretty big role in "The Martian" and I really enjoyed it. Readers, got any other books to recommend?