Now, after having had a rather disappointing Halloween at chez Green, when I read that a purported "chemistry teacher" found using isopropyl alcohol, rather than methanol, resulted in "a fire that alternated from orange to blue to green" and that it was "pretty cool," I now understand that to mean "after the third whippit, the normal blue and orange flames of the rubbing alcohol looked kind of green. Then I passed out."
The rules of making green fire are as simple as they are inviolate:
1) use methanol
2) add boric acid
The reason for these rules lies in ... chemistry! Here is the chemical equation for the boric acid/methanol reaction:
H3BO3 (boric acid) + 3CH3OH (methanol) --> B(OCH3)3 (trimethyl borate) + 3H2O (water!)
A very small amount of the boric acid is transformed into the trimethyl borate, but as the flame of methanol burning is a very pale blue, the borate compound easily overwhelms it.
I found that I was dissatisfied with the usual approach of making a puddle of liquid and setting the puddle on fire. First of all, the fuel is used up quickly. Secondly, it's hard to control and makes a big mess. For these reasons, I decided to make a small lamp for my green fire for a more controlled, portable and neater illumination.
For this instructable, you will need the following:
* Methanol (Heet - yellow bottle - is an easy source of this) $2.00
* Boric acid (you can find this in the hardware store as an insecticide, but I ordered it through a pharmacy to ensure that the product was not overly contaminated with unwanted chemicals) $5.00
* lamp wick (small round is easier to work with than large flat variety) $2
* small, "sampler size" jam jar
* an electric drill with a drill bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the wick
* (optional) a small hurricane lamp for a votive candle (I found one for $.50 at a thrift store)
* (optional) the metal holder from a spent votive candle
Alcohol is flammable, and alcohol vapors are explosive if concentrated and lit. Use good sense. One of the reasons for the small jam jar is that only a small amount of alcohol will spill if the jar is dropped and breaks. Also, try not to get methanol on your skin, as it can be absorbed through the skin, and is not nice. Never drink methanol. It is toxic, and cannot be made "untoxic." Think *permanent blindness*.
Boric acid is fairly innocuous, but inhaling large amounts of it (or swallowing it, or getting it in your eyes, etc) will not feel nice.
Green fire produces a white "smoke" that is actually diboro trioxide. It's (evidently) fairly harmless, but makes a mess. The Spirit Lantern is best used outdoors.