Introduction: Simple Science: Burn Steel Wool

We demonstrate the simple combustive oxidation of iron by burning a common household item: Steel wool.

Normally we do not think of iron as being flammable, this is because bulk iron doesn't self-sustain its burning like most flammable materials. But the strands of steel wool are thin enough with enough surface area that heat produced is self-sustaining and will continue to burn through if there is enough air present.

To do this, simply pull apart and fluff up the steel wool to separate the strands. Then simply set it on fire. The steel wool should then burn flamelessly creating iron oxide.


SirCooksalot (author)2016-06-01

Omg... Is that your real voice on the video? I hope you use it professionally, you have a super crazy narrator voice or at least radio DJ. If you're not a voiceover guy, you're missing out!

sniperHunted (author)2010-11-25

Is it possible to turn that steel wool into to powder so that it burns better?

rimar2000 (author)sniperHunted2010-11-26

No, because the powder has not too surface area in contact with the air. The tiny particles touch one to other, on the other hand between the steel strands remain a lot of air.

I've tried that suggest NurdRage, it is very interesting. Beware of small children!!

Yes you are very much correct, having the stuff in a powder would make it very difficult to sustain Combustion... However if you mixed it with some sort of Oxidizer (Which is Essentially like Solidified Oxygen...) Then would would get and extremely powerful and aggressive heat release...

That is actually how Thermite is made... But the key thing is to supply significant oxygen to sustain a burn...

As for turning it into a powder... Yes so time spent in a ball mill should probably do nicly...

only if you suck


jmapscience (author)2013-02-15

will it burn a a oxygon rich invirment.

only if your dusty

Yes, it even burns in an environment with relatively low Oxygen... So when you have a area rich in Oxygen I would Not see why it not...

troy tha beauty (author)2014-05-01


M4industries (author)2010-11-28

Something that will appeal to the masses of teenage pyromaniacs with matches and allowance money. At least this will teach them about oxidation and, if they ignite it with a battery, electrical resistance.

About This Instructable




Bio: NurdRage is a dedicate group of science nerds trying to further amateur science with direct how-to instructions in video format. We saw what was already ... More »
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