Category Archives: Fire and Flames Projects

Do you want to play with fire? This is a collection of science projects involving fire, including how to color fire, fire magic tricks, and interesting chemistry demonstrations involving fire and flames.

You Might Be a Pyro or Pyromaniac If

A true pyromanic or pyro has an unhealthy fascination with fire. (Nath Planas)

A true pyromanic or pyro has an unhealthy fascination with fire. (Nath Planas)

Pyromaniacs or pyros are people who have a fascination with fire, which usually involves playing with fire or setting fires. Are you a pyro? Do you know a pyro? How would you know? Well, here are some ways you might be able to tell. You might be a pyro if…

Pyromaniacism

Pyromaniacism RULES! So do explosions. I love fire, I love explosions. That’s the way it is.
— Guest

Am I a Pyro?

Whenever somone i know lights a lighter or match i end up taking said lighter and the box of matches just to light them.Once lit my cousins hand on fire,and know where all the lighters matches and anything else i could use to light fires are in my house…despite family trying to hide them…to bad for them huh?
— John

The geeks…

You might it… The only reason you started hanging out with some of your friends at first was because YOU knew THEY knew how to make things blow up and THEY knew YOU wanted to know how.
— RAIN

happy go boom day

lighter fluid lighters gunpowder and gasoline poured over a batch of fireworks is your fourth of July
— fox

you might be a pyro if..

if you keep a secret stash of explosives and if you can also get plants and know which ones have flamable oils and how to get to those oils.
— pyroboy

Well you could be if…

Your probably a pyro if as a kid you tried to make smoke bombs, fireworks, and such and were very upset about realizing that you can’t get the chemicals for it because you were too young. A.K.A. If you are me. 🙂
— Pyroboy

PYRO CHEMISTRY!!!!!

You might be a pyro if you take AP chem and burn your school down for fun using ammonium nitrate and ammonium chloride and zinc powder
— Daniel and Joanna

Are you me?

You may be a pyro if you are me or if you use any barbecue as an excuse to set fire to stuff lol
— Matthew

You may be a pyro if

You ask the following questions: Is it flammable or if it is can I make it explode?
— Roy mustang

guilty also,

if you use youtube as your guide to making fire or smoke (or weapons?) Like me, you might be a pyro. (fun stuff on there!)
— mindovermatter

LIGHT!

if you light 90% of anything you see that is flammable. You might be a pyro
— Ben

MG

You are a pyro if you are me. Haha
— MG

Chemistry=Flame??

You might be a pyro if the only reason you go (or went) to Chemistry class was because you hoped to see something explode……. as for me, guilty as charged.
—Blazing_Catracho

Pyromaniacs!!!

You may be a pyro if you pour gasoline on pavement and set it on fire.
— Sedso

IF you can or IF you can’t..!!

I you can make a smoke, no sound, large effect!! Then you can be a pyro..!
—newtron_b1

Hand sanitizer is life

You light your hands on fire so you can slap people for fun…
— Fire is my middle name

A regular around here

When everybody (in the fire departments) knows your name ♪♪
— Combustion Destruction

You’re an anarchist

If you know how to turn a simple bomb into a deadly, lethal/painful weapon. Like iron shards in a MacthBomb
— Warseer

burn yourself!

take a bath of corn oil and light yourself using a lighter! haha
— firemanz

hand sanitizer fire fun

You might be a pyro if you light hand sanitizer in fire and pick it up. (that is so much fun!!!!!!!!!!!)
— pyromania

you’re a pyro if you know this

This is the ultimate guide of everything pyro! First I’ll run down where to do it: Pyro activities can be performed anywhere. Just make sure no one is around except you, and maybe some friends. You can perform pyro activities inside, but you are mostly limited to flammable sprays. Outdoors is where to do it. Pick a spot in the woods, and dig a hole and put some rocks in it. You can have your own fire pit. Or better yet, make a section of ground that is only dirt and rocks, so you have a lower risk of forest fire. Make sure you do this deep in the woods where nobody can see you, but make sure you have a route planned in case some unwanted visitors plan to drop by. Now, Flammable Sprays. Probably the first thing any pyro will ever do. But there are some things that you can do with these sprays that you never would have thought of: Lysol: Very flammable, and probably the most universal of flammable sprays. Heres and idea, take a full can of lysol and break it open with and axe o
— pyro

hmm…

I built my own fireplace and practically smoked my family out of the house…and then there’s the time when I shot paintballs at a deodorant can. FUN:)
— Maranda

POSSIBLY

if u used to steal ur parents lighters just to watch the fire
— fireguyz

You might be a pyro if….

You, like me, made black powder all the time and used it to make rockets that sometimes blew-up & brought the neighbors outside looking for their children.
— Idaho Spud

or if

You burnt your eyelashes bending over a bonfire you made in the kitchen sink.
— crs

Oooooooh….

You might be a pyromaniac if you carry aroung matches/lighters/explosive/random chemicals and you seee most of your surroundings as flammable in any way. Also if your favourite summer activity is setting fire to ants using a magnifying glass.
— Sara

Staring

If you stare at a fire constantly then you might be Pyro… also if you jump through it.
— Dude

You could be a pyro if…

You like to make different kinds of grenades… (Film canisters, airsoft, shotgunshell ‘nades, and anything that has to do with firecrackers)
— Breehee

BURN

if you some how find a way to make stuff explode or burn (me in science we had sulfur!)
— firestarter
Are you a pyro? Post a comment to tell how you know…

Instant Fire Demonstration

Instant Fire Chemical Reaction (deradrian)

Instant Fire Chemical Reaction (deradrian)

Make instant fire using sugar, potassium chlorate, and sulfuric acid. No matches or flame is needed for this exciting chemistry demonstration!

Instant Fire Materials

You only need three chemicals for this reaction:

  • potassium chlorate
  • granulated table sugar – sucrose
  • sulfuric acid

Perform the Instant Fire Demonstration

You can do this demonstration in a test tube or on a heat-safe dish. Goggles, gloves, and a lab coat are recommended. Don’t use glassware you value too highly, since there is a good chance the highly exothermic reaction will shatter it.

  1. Mix together roughly equal amounts of potassium chlorate and sugar.
  2. Add a drop or two of sulfuric acid to the mixture to start the reaction. That’s it! Expect purple flames, smoke, and heat.

How It Works

The chemical reaction for this demonstration is:

2KClO3(s) + heat —> 2KCl(s) + 3O2(g)

This is a decomposition reaction in which potassium chlorate breaks down in potassium chloride and oxygen. Potassium chlorate is a powerful oxidizer. Adding sulfuric acid provides enough heat to accelerate the reaction. Once there is sufficient heat, the oxygen from the reaction burns, using sugar as the fuel.

Dancing Gummy Bear Variation

Another way to do this demonstration is to make a candy, such as a gummy bear, appear to dance in the flames.

  1. Secure a large test tube to a ring stand to hold it in place and so you’ll be able to distance yourself from it.
  2. Heat a small amount of potassium chlorate in a large test tube.
  3. Once the potassium chlorate has melted, add a gummy bear candy.

See the Instant Fire Reaction in Action

Here’s a quick video of this chemical reaction, so you can see what to expect. There are two things you’ll notice here. First, the potassium compound produces a bright purple flame, just as you would expect from a potassium flame test or bead test. Second, it’s important to use a heat-safe container and surface and proper safety gear when performing this reaction, because once it takes off, it gets exciting quickly!


More Fire Science

Rainbow Flames Halloween Jack o’ Lantern

Rainbow Fire Pumpkin

Rainbow Fire Pumpkin (Anne Helmenstine)

Looking for an over-the-top science-y Halloween jack o’ lantern? Here’s my favorite… a carved pumpkin that’s both covered in colored flames and shoots fire from every orifice. The colors work much like the analytical chemistry flame test in which heated ions release a characteristic spectrum of light.

Materials

  • Real Pumpkin (fake probably would melt, which might be something to try, I guess)
  • Colorant
  • Fuel

You have a few household chemical options for the colorant. My personal favorite is boric acid, which is sold as a roach killer powder or as a disinfectant powder. It emits a green light when heated. Borax, sold as a laundry booster, also burns green. Another choice is copper sulfate, which I have found in granular form as a root killer. Any or all of these work well.

The best fuel for the exterior of the pumpkin is hand sanitizer gel, which is 60-65% alcohol. You can use just hand sanitizer, but for big interior flames, it’s nice to have rubbing alcohol, kerosene, or methyl alcohol (Heet fuel treatment). My favorite combo is methanol (Heet) inside the pumpkin and hand sanitizer on the outside of the pumpkin.

Alcohol and hand sanitizer burn with a blue flame. Natural salts in the pumpkin produce yellow and orange, while incandescence covers the other colors of the spectrum.

This is a carved Halloween jack o' lantern sprinkled with copper sulfate and coated with hand sanitizer. (Anne Helmenstine)

This is a carved Halloween jack o’ lantern sprinkled with copper sulfate and coated with hand sanitizer. (Anne Helmenstine)

Make a Rainbow of Colored Fire

  1. Prepare your pumpkin. Carve it. Don’t carve it. Whatever floats your boat.
  2. Either go outdoors or else place your jack o’ lantern on a heat-safe surface, such as a cookie sheet on top of a potholder. Unless you get crazy, it should be easy to extinguish the flames by blowing them out, but it’s never a bad idea to have a source of water or a fire extinguisher at hand,
  3. Smear hand sanitizer all over the outside of the pumpkin. One nice feature of the product is that you’re left with water when the alcohol burns off, which puts out the fire.
  4. Sprinkle your colorant inside and outside the pumpkin.
  5. Pour a small amount (couple of ounces) of fuel into the jack o’ lantern.
  6. Use a long-handled lighter to ignite the fuel.
  7. You can re-charge the fire after the flames go out. Don’t add fuel to a burning pumpkin! There is no need to add more colorant chemical, as it is not consumed.

The carving is up to you. It’s not even critical to clean out the seeds and other pumpkin guts, since you don’t need to reach your hand inside the jack o’ lantern to place a candle. Anyway, the interior get immolated if you do it right, so it’s sort of a self-cleaning pumpkin.

Ready to see it in action? Here’s my video…

Safety Info

It’s a FIRE project. It makes an excellent Halloween chemistry demonstration or holiday display, but should only be under the control of a responsible adult. Have fun, but please be careful. Also, don’t use the pumpkin for pie or otherwise ingest it following this project. The colorant chemicals are more harmful to invertebrates (copper) and plants (too much boron) than to people, but they aren’t food. The fuels range from bad-tasting (ethanol) to downright toxic (methanol or kerosene). Read the warning labels on the products you use.

Pyrography – Draw Pictures With a Sparkler

Sparkler (Anne Helmenstine)

Sparkler (Anne Helmenstine)

Okay pyros, I know you’re out there… I’ve got a project right up your alley (and mine). Obtain or make a sparkler and use it to draw pictures on paper. Are you a little unclear about what I mean? It’s an art form called pyrographie (or pyrography) and it involves burning images into paper using fire. In this case, the fire comes from a sparkler. Think of it as a burning pencil, if you like. Artists Tobias Kipp and Timo Pitkamo have a wonderful website that showcases some of what you can do. (It’s in German, but it’s easy to navigate even if you don’t understand the language). My drawing skills begin and end with stick figures, so I’m not sure I’ll produce any pictures worth hanging on the living room wall, but if they are bad enough to burn… well, that’s fine too. If you make any nice art, send me a pic and I’ll post it so others can admire your skill.

Burning Bouquet of Dandelions

Burning Dandelions

Burning Dandelions (Anne Helmenstine)

I continued my experimentation into the colors of flames produced by dandelions with a bouquet of ‘wishes’ or seed heads. In Nebraska, dandelions are used for dandelion wine, but mainly are a weed. No one objected to getting the flowers cleared out their yard. Actually, I suspect they were glad the seed heads were going to be burned. The bouquet is pretty, burns instantly, and leaves little residue.

Fire Projects | Make a Glowing Flower

Make a Tabletop Fire Tornado: Red and Blue Flames

Red & Blue Fire Vortex

Red & Blue Fire Vortex (Anne Helmenstine)

It’s fun and educational to make a tabletop fire tornado or fire vortex. Why not experiment with color, too? The easiest variation is the green fire tornado, but you can use other chemicals and a similar technique to get other colors or even multiple colors. This fire tornado showcases red and blue flames.

Materials

  • mesh waste basket
  • lazy susan or turntable
  • strontium nitrate (emergency flare)
  • methanol (Heet fuel treatment)
  • heat-safe plate (Pyrex or stoneware are good choices)

If you don’t have methanol, a different alcohol or lighter fluid will burn with a comparable blue flame. I used strontium nitrate for red, which I got by cutting open an emergency flare and collecting the powder. You could also order pure strontium nitrate online or use another metal salt that burns red, such as a lithium salt.

Red & Blue Fire Tornado

Red & Blue Fire Tornado (Anne Helmenstine)

Instructions

  1. Set the waste basket on the turntable.
  2. Sprinkle a small amount of strontium nitrate (flare powder) in the middle of your plate.
  3. Set the plate inside the waste basket.
  4. Place the waste basket on the turntable.
  5. Dampen the strontium nitrate with the methanol and pour a small amount around it. Don’t get crazy with the fuel, at least until you know what to expect.
  6. Light the fuel and spin the turntable.
  7. You can let it go out on its own, blow it out, cover it with a pan, or douse it with water. The methanol burns quickly, so putting it out is not generally an issue. However, for the pyros out there who will get carried away, it’s good to know all the various ways you can safely extinguish the flames.

I tried this project a few different ways. It’s possible to completely isolate the two colors from each other by placing the fuel (methanol) in two small metal cups and adding a pinch of strontium nitrate to one of them. You set the cups inside the waste basket, ignite the fuel, and slowly spin the turntable. It’s a spectacular effect, but it’s not the safest activity, since physics will pull the cups outward as you spin the basket. I think you’d get good results sticking the cups to a base using a hot glue gun, but I have not tried it yet.

Make It Red, White & Blue

You can add aluminum or titanium flakes to get white sparkles. Burning a separate pile of Epsom salts with methanol can give you white flames, though in my experience most products have enough sodium contamination to give you more yellow than white. There’s magnesium metal, which would certainly liven things up… not recommending, just saying.

So, of course I had to make a video of this project:

How To Make a Green Fire Tornado

Green Fire Tornado

Green Fire Tornado (Anne Helmenstine)

Make a green fire tornado using common household materials. It’s easy to do and looks amazing!

Green Fire Tornado Materials

  • lazy susan turntable (found this one at Bed Bath & Beyond) – [Non-Skid Cabinet Turntable, 9-Inch at Amazon]
  • mesh waste basket that fits on the turntable (also found at Bed Bath & Beyond) – [Round Mesh Wastebasket at Amazon]
  • methanol (I used Heet fuel treatment)
  • boric acid or borax

If you can’t find a lazy susan, you can use a stool or table or any other object you can spin. If you don’t have a mesh waste basket, you can make a cylinder out of chicken wire or window screen fabric. What matters is that air can enter the sides of the cylinder and you can see through it. If you don’t have methanol, you can use lighter fluid or rubbing alcohol. If you can’t find borax (laundry booster) or boric acid (disinfectant powder and roach killer), you can get green flames using copper sulfate (root killer and algicide).

Make Your Green Fire Tornado

  1. Set the waste basket on the carousel.
  2. Practice spinning the container. You do not need to spin it quickly to get the vortex to form. You do need to make sure the set-up won’t fall over before you put fire inside, as a basic safety precaution.
  3. Sprinkle a bit of boric acid, borax, or copper sulfate in the middle of the container.
  4. Moisten it with a small amount of fuel.
  5. Use a long-handled lighter or candle to ignite the fuel. Pretty, right? (Yes, I am a pyro.)
  6. Slowly spin the carousel to form the tornado. The fuel will go out on its own fairly quickly, although you can also blow it out to stop the flame.