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I am working on a dragon project, and have solved how my dragon makes each breath, but I would like to know the most powerful possible breath, and how the dragon might make it, (fire breath, ice/cold breath, corrosive breath, poison breath, lightning breath, air breath, water breath, (kind of earth breath) hormonal breath, light breath) (not necessarily a gas, can be liquid, or solid too)

this is in an earthly environment, and anything is useful while in the boundaries of physics, and a creature could do it, thank you, and ask me for more data if you need it

edit:not only poisons/corrosive materials please, I've been getting a lot of those

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    $\begingroup$ What are your boundaries? Without that info sky is the limit $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jan 25 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ Explain "how your dragon makes each breath". Otherwise the answers won't be usable to you. Also mention how much hard science you want in your answers. Also say how big are the dragons, as this will control how powerful they are. $\endgroup$ – Daron Jan 25 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ bad breath... it will deter friends and foe alike ;D $\endgroup$ – user6760 Jan 25 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ Most likely dragon breath: Halitosis. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Jan 25 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ Stink-breath. The breath of carnivores (and animals in general) is usually from eye-watering to vomit-inducing. Think "farts from the other end". Any other "breath" ranges from absolutely implausible to logically non-sensical. $\endgroup$ – John O Jan 25 at 14:33
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Caustic, digesting, nasty spit

The most plausible "breath" weapon is the one that already exists in the animal kingdom. It's called "having something nasty spat at you", and several snake species (generically known as "spitting cobras") are pretty good at it. However, their venom is only a hazard to the eye, unless it somehow gets inside you, of course. Your dragons have evolved to the point where the chemistry they are using is much more sophisticated, with strong acids, powerful enzymes, and even oxidizing chemicals involved. (Bombardier beetles are well-known for producing hydrogen peroxide as part of their defense mechanism, and it's not implausible that that chemistry could have evolved again in an alternate universe.) That digestive soup, then, leaves searing acid burns on its victims as a precursor to deep, necrotic tissue damage from specially evolved proteases that eat through the intercellular matrix alongside signaling peptides that trigger cell death and/or inhibit clotting.

The results of getting hit by this would be terrible. Imagine getting hit with a spitball with an accompanying a brief spike of pain, only to find that minutes later, you've lost the use of a limb, or worse, as the venom's soaked into your gambeson and chemise, holding it in contact with your skin. Atop that, you're now bleeding badly in a way that just won't stop. No wonder legends of "fire-breathing dragons" would get born!

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  • $\begingroup$ Sulfuric acid will combine with hydrogen peroxide to create what's known as "piranha solution," which is known for being able to readily dissolve organic compounds. $\endgroup$ – Redbud201 Jan 26 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Redbud201 -- yeah, that's along the lines of what I was thinking of, although having enzymes work in such nasty conditions would be quite a feat in its own right $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Jan 26 at 4:27
  • $\begingroup$ thank you, and to any haters, yes, it can be liquid or even solid, if you like it, and can $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 26 at 12:40
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oh! ive worked on dragons before. the simplest realistic option ive found is reacting hydrogen and oxygen in the nostrils. the dragon drinks water, some of it gets sorted to a separate organ which combines CO2 and the water with photosynthetic bacteria, whom are sustained by a slight bioluminescence to produce oxygen and sugar. excess sugar is then sent to another organ as the oxygen is stored away for later use, and sugar is then reacted with more CO2 in other microbes to produce hydrogen and CO2, and the hydrogen is then stored in yet another chamber. the oxygen chamber and hydrogen chamber both have vents that run to the nostrils to be reacted just behind them, creating explosions that ignite the air in front of the nose, creating fire. the dragon then requires some sort of reinforcement to the nostrils, such as a boney armor to keep from burning flesh, and a defence for the skin, like an oiley secretion to make it flame retardant. the rest, (other than stink breath) are either virtually impossible to do reliably with normal chemistry, extremely inefficient, or can only be used once due to causing permanent damage.

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  • $\begingroup$ as i said, i worked on dragons before, this just fire, i already made, and gas is too unreliable most of the time, as a breeze can make the dragon hurt itself, if it were not for the secretion, which has easier solutions that a constant secretion of the substance, but thank you very much, $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 25 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. try an aerosol, and for a constant fire, have it ignite through a spark, possibly from piezoelectricity, instead of an explosion, also, igniting it inside the mouth is a no go, so try having it right at the tip of the snout $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 25 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ also, u forgot about hormonal, poison and corrosive breaths being also quite easy $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 25 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ Seems like a waste to perform hydrolysis when oxygen is readily available all around us. And there are plenty of other chemical processes that could turn many various organic chemicals into hydrogen gas. $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Jan 25 at 23:32
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I’ll preface this with the fact that I’m not too sure if the chemistry for this can be easily achieved by living creatures, but giant, flying, weaponized breath lizard, so it might be within reason.

Ernaline’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Monster Hunting.

Choking Dragon

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Family: Dracaena

Subfamily: Dracaeno

Genus: Draco lacrimam

Known for it’s toxic breath, the choking dragon or “choker” is one of the harder monsters to fight.

The choker lives primarily in swamps, bogs, and other forms of wetlands. When not found in these places the choker tends to be found near large sources of stagnant water, this makes it a danger to farmers of rice patties.

The primary weapon of the choker is its poisonous breath which is comprised of chloropicrin. The signs of choker poisoning are: pain in eyes and lungs, shortness of breath, extreme tearing, coughing, choking, vomiting, diarrhea,headache, dizziness, fatigue, and pulmonary edema (possibility resulting in death not from chomping). The poisonous gas will gather at the ground allowing the choker to fly safely over sprayed areas.

Attempts at creating protective devices that work on choker poison have thus far proven unreliable at best. Most masks do not provide resistance to the gas and the more effective masks are only partly effective. As an added bonus the chokers gas makes creatures vomit which leads to the removal of the mask or to drowning in vomit. Rapid dispatching of the choker is the advised route if you have access to an advanced mask.

The choker stores its poison in a bladder running down its throat to its pelvis. This poison bladder contains the liquid chloropicrin. The choker constricts this poison bladder while rapidly exhaling to produce its gas breath. Examination of choker carcasses has reviled a second set of eyelids, these eyelids are transparent and are credited with why the choker does not seem to have its vision affected by its own gas. A consensus on why the choker does not seem to be affected by breathing the gas has yet to be reached. The leading theory is the choker merely holds its breath while using its poison.

The choker is believed to have developed its breath weapon due to its habitation in swamps. The chloropinrin that has been harvested from slain chokers has been proven to be a broad spectrum antimicrobial, fungicide, herbicide, insecticide, and nematicide. The choker will breath its poison on itself at least once a day to kill off any parasites that try to take root in its hide.

Chokers can be harvested for its poison by siphoning out the liquid from its poison bladder. Caution must be used while hunting to claim more than a few drops of chloropicrin from the carcass since attacks to the front of the choker can pierce its poison bladder. Harvested poison must not be boiled unless an explosion is the desired result. The poison is highly corrosive to many plastics and rubbers as well as steel and iron which makes handling and processing of it difficult, copper brass and bronze have proven resistant to corrosion though.

Sources used https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/chloropicrin https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/emergencyresponsecard_29750034.html

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  • $\begingroup$ good answer, I will look into these $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 26 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ but i'd like a more insta-kill $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 26 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Dexyan most of the chemical weapons that are airborne usually aren’t insta-kill. Take for instance mustard gas, it had a 20% kill rate for exposed soldiers and usually took days to weeks to kill people who had suffered greater than 50% body exposure. The extremely fast acting poison still take minutes form the start of being exposed to a cloud to kill. And those are nervous agents. I’m a little bit leary about it but if you really need fast acting and lethal nervous agents are probably your best bet. Probably is they tend to absorb through the skin which makes containing them in an organic... $\endgroup$ – cHARLES cHESS Jan 27 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ creature rather difficult. In addition those assume the dragon has radically different neutral architecture from the creatures the gas is meant to work on. (I think, though I’m not a biologist so I may be wrong) So barring something along the lines of intelligent design I believe it is unlikely for nervous gas dragons to be found. But if you want to look into it sarin gas would be the place to start on the potential gas for a nervous gas breath. $\endgroup$ – cHARLES cHESS Jan 27 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ thank you for this, and it is true, poison takes time - but your dragon takes more time than i would like, and there are more instant poisons, but point taken $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Feb 2 at 12:14
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Pyrophric chemical glands

Some chemicals (such as some phosphorus compounds) spontaneously combust when coming into contact with oxygen. Glands full of these chemicals in the nose, mouth or even the throat (if the dragon is especially fire-proof), would release the chemical in conjunction with heavy exhalation (exhaled breath still contains some oxygen), resulting in fire breath.

Hypergolic propellant glands

Hypergolic propellants are 2 (or more) fluids that ignite when they come into contact with each other. The glands would work very similarly to the Pyrophric glands described above, but would not rely on the oxygen content of the air/breath. They might even be able to breathe fire under water, though it would be a very small and brief flame.

Fluid fuel with piezoelectric trigger

The dragon has glands in the mouth or throat which contain a fluid fuel (such as hydrogen). There is also a piezoelectric crystal in the dragon's mouth or throat. A piezoelectric crystal is a substance that produces a spark when placed under mechanical stress, such as squeezing with a muscle, which would ignite the fuel in the presence of oxygen.

Methane gut bacteria with piezoelectric trigger

The dragon has bacteria which produces methane in their stomach or intestine. There is a piezoelectric crystal in the dragon's mouth or throat, which would ignite the methane gas.
To be pedantic, this would actually be a fire belch rather than fire breath, but I don't think the people getting chased by fire would know or care.

Special thanks to thatweirdscienceguy from Tumblr.

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  • $\begingroup$ somewhat of what I thought, I used a chlorine trifluoride compound, which is pyrophoric, and hypergolic, with water, causing an explosion, this one is one of the good answers, but i still need names of chemicals $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 26 at 9:48
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If you want acidic breath, I'd suggest hydrofluoric acid (HF) for maximum nastiness. This stuff can be corrosive in high concentrations, but that's only a small part of the damage it can do. Even a low-level exposure is dangerous, and it's not obvious until too late that it's a problem. HF doubles as a contact poison, penetrating skin easily and wrecking calcium levels in the bloodstream.

If you suffer a high-concentration spill of this stuff, the burns will be savage, but the real problem is beneath the surface. HF attacks the nervous system: if you're getting painful burns, that's life-threatening exposure if it's in quantity. Bone strength is also weakened by exposure, and if enough surface area on your skin gets hit (more than 25 square inches, which isn't very much), you're looking at systemic toxicity (crippling if not fatal without good medical treatment). Lower concentrations can be initially painless: you won't even realize at first that there's a problem, but one to several hours later you're likely going to be down with serious complications.

Even as a gas, it's deadly. If any of this goes in the eyes, that's definitely not good news; a measly 2.5% concentration can burn the eyes within minutes. Inhalation can easily cause bronchitis or pulmonary edema, and it's capable of poking holes in the stomach lining if too much of it gets into your digestion. A low concentration may not produce symptoms for several hours, but if it's concentrated enough the effects are rapid.

Containment is admittedly a problem with a chemical this hostile; it actually reacts with glass containers (it's used for etching glass or silicon industrially), so a prepared solution being contained biologically is going to be tricky. A binary situation may be one answer; fluorite in one chamber, water in another, to be mixed only when used. If your dragon can naturally produce a plastic lining somehow, that would also work: either way, I'd advise high calcium levels as a safeguard against accidental exposure.

A source I found helpful for details is right here, a medical journal.

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(liquid) Butane Breath!

Butane is a simple chemical, not too difficult to synthesize.
It is quite believable to handwave a biological organ that creates and concentrates Butane inside your Dragon. It is not even greatly toxic!

At room temperature, you only need about 2 Atmospheres of pressure to keep Butane in liquid form. Now granted, putting a 2-bar pressure vessel in a biological construct is a tall order, but it is not out there.

The Dragon would expel the liquid Butane by simply opening a valve to its storage container. The Butane would spray out in a mixed gas/liquid cone, propelled by its own internal pressure of 2 Bar.

Un-ignited, it would severely chill and possibly asphyxiate its target.

Ignited, it would make a beautiful flamethrower. Ignition of Butane gas in a suitable air mixture requires the teensyest spark source, a single piezolectrical element in the spit/ejector orifice will do quite well.

The Dragon could close off the expelling valve, no worry about flame propagating into the storage chamber as there is no Oxygen there to allow combustion. The only danger to the Dragon itself would be blowback, or if it drools liquid Butane on itself.

p.s. If the pressure requirement of Butane is too much for you, replace it with simple concentrated Alcohol. Also easy to produce biologicaly, sufficiently non-toxic that a specialized organ could contain it, and liquid at normal body temperatures. You would just need to add some nice muscles to spit with, and a better ignition facility than the easy Butane ignitor.

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  • $\begingroup$ and a vortex motion could be even more helpful for the cooling effect, but ethanol is a no go, as it is uncontainable, and it seeps out, otherwise, yes $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 28 at 8:07
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Corona/bacterial breath

Komodo dragons harbor bacteria in their teeth which may cause sepsis on a victim. So even if prey survives a bite and flees, the dragon may still feast on a corpse later.

Dial it up to 11 with your dragons. They don't need to spit fire, lightning or acid in order to kill a lot of people. They just need to breathe like regular humans do. If they harbor some virus or bacteria for which the human body just can't fight against, then that will cause more deaths than any other alternative.

If the setting is medieval, the dragon just has to pass through roads or farms every once in a while. They can then go to villages a couple weeks later and feast upon the piles of bodies.

If the setting is modern, and the dragons are intelligent, they can find out places where there aren't enough ICU's and graves for everybody and spread the plague. People will resort to mass graves, the dragon may open those later for a meal.

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    $\begingroup$ well... this is not what i was looking for, but i'd like it to be more of an insta-kill, still, good reasoning $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 26 at 19:21
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The best type of breath would be an acid, preferably fluoroantimonic acid, a acid that is so strong that it will separe the electrons from your hands( hydrolisis) and furthermore it will sear the skin off your hand( this only in a small quantity). If it were a high proportion of it, if it touched your arm it would eat through skin, flesh and erode the bone. Since the dragon could have a gland to produce this acid, the best substance is definitely fluoroantimonic acid.

The way this would work without harming the dragon itself is for the dragon to have a acid resistant throat that connects to the glands, something like a natural derivant of PTFE. A natural solution to that would be versatile molybdenum. To produce the acid the dragon's glands the dragon would produce hydrofluoric acid and antimony pentafluoride, and join them in a chemical reaction.

It will shoot the acid from its mouth and when it lands on the prey the prey will surely die and corrode.

If you are looking for a fiery solution to this problem, making your dragon more...dragonlike, there are several solutions.

The first is fire( with flint and steel). As we all know, dragons grind up rocks with their teeth, and are bound to have flint and steel in them. Then they would release argon, methane, hydrogen and oxygen against their teeth, which is lighted with the flint and steel and it comes out as a big spurt of burning flame. There is no way to really enhance this.

The other solution is ice breathing dragons. Ice is a powerful factor, so the way to use it. There is an exiting way to do this, where the dragon uses the sulfur and the Hydrogen Sulfide from the flame he/she breathed before and react with chalk(eaten) to get the CO2 under pressure.

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    $\begingroup$ thank you, this is useful, and i will look into it $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 26 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Dexyan, thank you as well. $\endgroup$ – Dario Castro Jan 26 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ gas is too unpredictable liquid or aerosol are better, piezoelectric triggers are better than the unreliable flint and steel, $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Jan 27 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Dexyan, of course a dragon will produce aerosol and piezoelectric triggers $\endgroup$ – Dario Castro Jan 27 at 9:51
  • $\begingroup$ not necessarily an actual aerosol, it can be a liquid in a $\endgroup$ – Dexyan Feb 1 at 10:21

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