Last year we learned in Chemistry class about Red-ox reactions. Recently I found out that these reactions could sometimes be used in order to light fire, so today we are going to start fire with a chemical reaction.
Step 1: Watch Video
Step 2: Materials
For this project we need only two easy-to-get materials which you can find in every drug store.
First, we need Potassium Permanganate, also called Kali (KMnO4). This is a very strong oxidizer thus should be handled carefully and also be kept away from oxidizable substances (Ethanol, Glycrin etc.). Kali is also used in water disinfecting and survival kits.
The other material we need is Glycerin, an easily oxidized substance. It is usually used in order to treat skin and minor skin irritations, thus it is also used in survival kits.
Because of the fact these two materials are found in survival kits, this guide will help you manage a better use of your kit.
Step 3: Lighting Fire
Pour some Kali on the surface where you want to start fire. Then make a small gap in the pile of Kali. Now pour a few drops of glycerin into the gap you created and get you tinder ready because this pile is about to catch fire. When you see the reaction starts and there's smoke get ready, in a matter of seconds a flame will appear and that's your time to place your tinder over it and start your fire.
After a few times I have performed this experiment I have some advices for you:
- The thinner the Kali powder is, the faster the reaction starts.
- Pour only few drops of glycerin that will fill the gap, more than that will not allow the fire to light.
Step 4: Chemical Equitation and Explanation
The reaction we use in this project belongs to a group of chemical reactions called Red-Ox, oxidation reduction.
In this case our Kali (KMnO4) is the oxidizer and he gives four electrons. Mn (Manganese) starts with a oxidation level of +7 and finishes with +3.
Our reducer is Carbon (C) and each one receives four electrons. It starts with an oxidation level of -2/3, and finishes with +4. At first, it doesn't seem that four electrons are being received here and that is why this equation is hard to balance. Because there are 3 Carbon atoms in Glycerin molecule, we multiply -2/3 with 3 and get -2. Now all we have to do is to multiply -2 and 4 so they will be equal, that's because of the Conservation of Mass law which says that in both sides of the equtation there should be the exact same amounts. This is why we have to balance this equtation and to multuiply KMnO4 with 14 and Glycerin with 4.