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The Color of Fire

Shira Yehudit Djlilmand

What color are flames? Red, orange, yellow? Actually, flames can be all of these colors — and more. Let’s find out how ...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

If you’ve ever stood beside a bonfire – or any kind of fire for that matter, you’ve probably noticed that the flames are a gorgeous combination of colors. Ever wondered why? Well, it all depends on what’s being burned. Any object that’s burned undergoes a series of chemical reactions. The energy produced from those reactions is given off as light, or flames. The color of that flame depends on which chemicals are being burned. Most fires made from wood are a bright orange color, because of the sodium in the wood. If there’s carbon and hydrogen burning, you’ll see a bluish flame — if you have a gas stove you’ll know just the blue I mean. If there’s any trace of copper or copper products in the fire, the flames will take on a gorgeous green color, and if there is a lot of soot, the flames will be a bright yellow. If you’ve made a bonfire from all kinds of objects (which can be very dangerous), you might get all kinds of different colored flames, depending on the chemicals in the burning objects. But some chemicals give off not only colored flames but also poisonous fumes, so be very careful what you put on a fire. What you can do is buy safe flame colorants using basic household items such as boric acid or table salt, or buy them in special stores, treat sawdust or pinecones with them and ask an adult to throw them in the fire from a distance for a colorful, safe fire show!    


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