By Eugene Toth
Only persons 18 years old and older should perform this experiment. If you do not fit this criteria, you need adult supervision when performing this experiment. Perform this experiment outdoors in a fire safe area. Infinite Initiative disclaims responsibility for explosions, fire or any other damages.
Ever wanted to resemble a mad scientist? Have you read the story of Dr. Frankenstein? Have you ever wanted to produce green fire? The spectacle of green fire will amaze and thrill. In fact, green fire is no more dangerous than normal fire.
- Boric Acid
Boric Acid appears in pharmacies as a disinfectant. One may recognize it as a white powder. Boric acid is not borax. You do not need pure boric acid. You may use some chemicals which are 99% boric acid and 1% insecticides.
2. Antifreeze or methanol
Do not use oil or grill fire starters. The advantage of methanol is that it does not explode. It burns slowly. One may find antifreeze or methanol with automotive chemicals or as a fuel treatment in automotive supplies.
3. A fire safe container
Contain the fire in a suitable vessel. Keep all chemicals in a disposable metal or stoneware container.
4. Proper protection
Every laboratory experiment can be dangerous. Wear gloves, laboratory goggles, and a lab coat for protection against anything that might go wrong.
Place the metal container on the ground away from any flammable or explosive objects. Green fire can spread onto anything that fire can burn.
Sprinkle some boric acid into the container. 1-2 teaspoons of powder should work. You may notice some of the powder dissolves. Some of the powder, however, does not dissolve into the liquid. Do not worry about this phenomenon. The green fire will still work.
Pour some methanol into the container. The amount of methanol determines the fire’s duration. 1/2 a cup will give fuel for approximately 10 minutes of fire. Avoid breathing methanol. It has some poisonous properties.
Light the fire. Do not place yourself over the fire. The fire might flare up.
Why it Works
When we grill meat on a barbecue, we pour oil or some other fire starter to light the coals in the grill. The methanol in the green fire helps the fire start. The boron in the boric acid makes the fire green by changing the chemical composition of the fire to make it green. Boron also absorbs some heat, shortening the fire’s life. The boron makes the green fire burn for a shorter duration than normal fire.
If a substance has a noble gas, it will not react with anything. Neither boron or
methanol have any noble gasses. Methanol consists of carbon and hydrogen, and oxygen.(See Figure 1) A carbon atom has 4 bonds. Figure 1 show a methanol molecule composed of two carbon atoms, shown as dark gray. If the carbon atom already bonded with another carbon atom and 2 oxygen atoms, the carbon atom has space for another atom. Therefore, boron bonds with the carbon. When the boron bonds with the carbon, the methanol transforms into a flammable substance which produces green fire.
Ever since the witch doctors and ancient priests, people have used chemical combinations to color fire for magic tricks and illusions. People even accused those who made green fire of witchcraft. The tradition of green fire continues today in magic shows, Halloween spectacles, and other spooky or exciting events
Green fire demonstrates a chemistry experiment you may not have known. People may view it as magic. In reality, however, the experiment just requires simple science. Flammable chemical properties of boron produces an impressive green fire.