Time-lapse Vid of Dissolving an Oyster Card in acetone (aka nail varnish)

Disclaimer: Just to cover my back, be aware that TFL probably won't like you doing this. So get permission first etc.


I'm pretty certain that ever since BoingBoing featured Chris Woebken dissolving an oyster card to get at its juicy inner workings (a RFID chip stuck to a loop of wire, fact fans) geeks across London have been attempting it.

As such I'm rather late to the party on this one. The rather splendid SciencePunk beat me too it with this grand attempt codenamed Operation Ladybird. Nevertheless I knew I must attempt this epic journey too.

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What you will need

If you want to play along this is your shopping list:

1) ~ 400ml of Nail Varnish Remover - I bought 2 bottles of Boots own brand at 99p each. I could probably have got by with one.
2) An oyster card - I bought a prepay one for £3, though I got a funny look when I didn't want to top it up there and then.
3) A jar big enough to contain the oyster card - I bought a jar of beetroot (urgh) for 72p.

Total Cost: £5.70

It's simple enough process, fill the jar with the nail varnish remover, dump the oyster card in it. Put the top back on and wait for a few hours. Brilliantly, I picked up bunch of PS2 eyetoy cameras on clearance (£1.99 each from Gamestation) which means I now own a webcam! (Aside: they can be turned into pretty good webcams once you've installed macam, and they appear to be quite easy to break apart so I'm turning one into an infrared camera next). So I'm proud to present Skeptobot's first ever youtube video. Time-lapse footage of my Oyster Card dissolving.





Notes on the vid: I've never used a webcam/youtube/imovie before so sorry for the quality. The smudge on the card that appears about half way in is from when I poked it with a pencil, and the paint on the pencil stripped off. It's best to keep checking the card, first it will get soft, then after about 90 mins it folded over and I was able to peel off the first layer of the card, exposing one side of the chip. Then I cut the centre of the card out with scissors (so there was less plastic for the acetone to work on). I put these pieces next to the jar, and I was quite suprisied when the time-lapse showed them wobbling about.

Then after another half hour or so, the other side of the plastic loosened enough to peel that away exposing the intact chip and antenna. Nail Varnish Remover takes longer that SciencePunks miltary grade stuff but I think a more dilute source of acetone is more effective than SciencePunks military grade stuff.

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The chip itself
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The chip still attached to the loop of wire acting as it's antenna


So tomorrow morning I'll attempt to use this naked oyster card to journey to work. If I'm successful (and not arrested for terrorism) I'll have to decide what my new oyster card will be. So far I'm thinking either stitching it into my watch, or wrapping it around a magic wand (though that might kill the signal).


UPDATE - It still works!
This is how the oyster card currently looks (I've put it back inside it's wallet to keep it safe and so I don't look too weird):
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And this is how it still works!



The magic wand draws closer...

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