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I surmise it's some kind of alcohol, but is there a standard chemical used for these?

One of them just exploded in my students' lab! It was the kind with blue fluid in it.

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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_thermometer $\endgroup$ – Zhe Mar 2 '18 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ exploded, as in "ignited/fireball" or as in "overheated and glass broken due to pressure"? $\endgroup$ – dlatikay Mar 3 '18 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @dlatikay the latter. Loud pop. No combustion that I know of $\endgroup$ – khaverim Mar 3 '18 at 18:25
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As per the Wikipedia page on Spirit Thermometers:

The liquid used can be pure ethanol, toluene, kerosene or isoamyl acetate, depending on manufacturer and working temperature range. Since these are transparent, the liquid is made more visible by the addition of a red or blue dye.

1,4-bis(butylamino)anthraquinone - commonly known as "Oil Blue 35" - may possibly be used as the blue dye.

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Another organic solvent used may be pentane. Perhaps the common ones contain toluene dyed with a red aniline dye .

Other spirit filled thermometers variants include:

  • Blue fill contains isoamyl benzoate;
  • Red fill may contain kerosene or pentane with aniline dye

Aniline red

enter image description here
Credits

Acknowledgements

  • Spirit-Filled Glass Thermometers: Document
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