Blue Flaming Pinecones




Are you a pyromaniac? Do you enjoy setting things on fire, yet feel artistically confined by the boring yellow color of ordinary flames? Thanks to the marvels of modern science you can easily diversify your palette. By marinating pinecones in the right chemicals you can make them burn blue, green, all the colors of the rainbow. So grab your blowtorch and let's start cooking!

Step 1: Get Some Metal Salts

You can change the color of fire by adding metal salts to a burning object. The easiest way to accomplish this is to make a solution of the metal salt in water or alcohol, marinate whatever you want to burn, then let it dry. Pinecones are a good medium because they have a lot of surface area and act as a sponge. But you can use sawdust, twigs, you name it.

Different metals will burn different colors. Your homework assignment is to provide a detailed explanation why this occurs, based on first principals of quantum chemistry. For now please accept the following conversion chart:

blue = copper chloride (CuCl2)
green = copper sulfate (CuSO4)
red = strontium chloride (SrCl2)
purple = potassium sulfate (K2SO4)
white = magnesium sulfate (MgSO4)

In my experience copper chloride works the best by far, giving bright blue flaming pinecones that are sure to impress even the most discerning pyromaniac. The green and red from CuSO4 and SrCl2 are also attractive. Magnesium sulfate (white) and potassium sulfate (purple) didn't do much of anything to the color of the fire for me, so I'd say skip those two. My sources tell me there are other combinations you can try.

Of all the chemicals listed above, only MgSO4 can be purchased at the drugstore (in the form of epsom salts; magnesium sulfate heptahydrate). For the rest you'll have to do a little hunting. Strontium salts are commonly found in road flares, for example. Suppliers for pyrotechnics, photography and rocketry are also a good source. Google product search turns up a surprising number of results for copper chloride. You may find these salts in their anhydrous or hydrated forms, which doesn't matter since you're going to dissolve them in water anyway.

Note that all of these things are bad for you if ingested, so be careful to wash your hands after handling, and try not to spill the CuSO4 in your coffee. Gloves might be smart.

Step 2: Prepare Coloring Solutions

Make solutions of the different colorants for soaking your pinecones. Place a bunch of the metal salt in the bottom of the glass jar (the actual amount doesn't really matter) and enough water to dissolve it all. For strontium chloride and copper chloride you can use 70% isopropyl alcohol instead, which I prefer because it dries a lot quicker.

Add the pinecones and let them soak for at least 2-3 hours, preferably overnight.

Step 3: Dry the Pinecones

Use a pair of tongs to remove the pinecones (don't get the salt solutions on your skin) and place them on a towel out in the sun. The towel will become soaked in chemicals, so don't ever use it again.

Once the pinecones are good and dry you are ready for action.

Step 4: Set Them on Fire

Grab a blowtorch and set those pinecones on fire! In my opinion the blue ones look the best, with red and green tied for second. The purple (potassium sulfate) and white (magnesium sulfate) pinecones were a dud, and looked the same as my "control" group. But your mileage may vary. You can mix and match to make a myriad rainbow of fiery goodness.

A final safety note: It's always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand when you're burning things. And don't breath the fumes from the colored flames.



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    124 Discussions


    3 years ago

    We did this stuff in chemistry class. We used a platinum wire loop to scoop up a bit of soaked salt and held it above a flame. We got a beautiful purple since there was nothing else to burn with it. You could also do this by sprinkling the salt directly over a fire.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    Do you need a blowtorch or can you just throw them in a fire>?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 4

    doesn't matter, but blowtorch is better. Its hard to get a big fire that is easyu to control.


    7 years ago on Step 4

    thanks. this was helpful information. turns out i'm doing a science project on this too. How did you get the cupric chloride and the strontium? epsom salts don't work for me too, but the salt substitute did.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    The flames are beautiful, the blue being the most! I would love to know how I could get my hands on some of the Copper Chloride. Does anyone know where it could be purchased?

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    You can buy Copper Suplhate (CuSO4) from Bunnings in the fertiliser section (It's in a pringles style tube) but not sure about the rest, I wouldn't mind knowing where to get some Copper Chloride (CuCl2) though!

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Go buy some Hydrochloric acid, then put some copper wire in it and let it soak for a few days, until the solution turns green and all the copper is gone. Then heat it up to boil off the acid (OUTSIDE) and wait for it to crystallize.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    *cough* sugar+gas=napalm
    *snezze* cotton+gas=napalm
    *achooo* mix gas with anything to thicken=napalm

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    No, not really. Cotton wouldn't stick very well. Use either motor oil (traditional) or styrofoam (cheap).


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    dissolve styrofoam in gasoline, then thicken it with something, and you have better napalm just plain gas isn't very good napalm.