Chemistry Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for scientists, academics, teachers and students. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

If I have a pen with refillable ink, can I just pour in concentrated Hydrochloric acid or concentrated sulphuric acid in the ink chamber to make it an acidic pen?

Would it be better to use the acid of suitable molarity instead of being concentrated?

Then if I write with it on a paper, will it burn?

Is this a good idea to play with?

Is it dangerous in any way?

Is it illegal to make such things for experimenting and fun?

Is there any other safe method to achieve the same?

What are the odds that the poured acid will burn the ink chamber itself and start leaking?

Can it be used in any constructive way? Like cutting many sheets of paper at once. Or using it in industries suitably to make smooth cuts in materials that can be burned with the used acid.

Will it be fun to you?

Thanks to everyone.


I would like to add a few details.

Assume that the acid is not concentrated but of suitable molarity to just cut the paper. I mean, to pierce through it and burning its edges to just make a nice cut. Like a glowing incense stick makes when made to touch a paper. Also, the nip of the pen and the ink chamber are strongly inert; enough to survive the concentrated acid's attack and prevent leaking. Like, the chamber can be made of glass (in which acid's are usually kept) and the nip can be made of galvanized/electroplated iron.

Or if there is still more, we can just make this into a thought experiment.

share|improve this question
Nice idea! Would never try it though... Because to cut through paper would mean to use conc. acid, which means taking the risk of burning the pen or yourself! Would like to see interesting answers for this question... – Apurv Mar 7 '14 at 16:19
What exactly do you mean by "burn" paper? You're not thinking the paper will combust on contact with the ink, are you? – Kyle Strand Mar 7 '14 at 19:57
@KyleStrand I mean, to pierce through it and burning its edges to just make a nice cut. Like a glowing incense stick makes when made to touch a paper. – Awal Garg Mar 8 '14 at 6:52
up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can pour anything into your pen. Is it a good idea? Most likely not. Is it dangerous? You bet! Is it a good idea to play with? NO! Whether it is legal or not to create such an object, you'll have to check with legislation in your country.

If you want paper to ignite on touch with this pen, you would need some truly strong acid (and probably undiluted). I'm certain that if this substance has the capability to burn paper, it would also corrode away the feed and nib of the pen. In the worst case, it will even eat through the ink container and leaking everywhere. In any way, this is no viable option to cut paper in a controlled fashion.

Is there a safer method? Well, there would be laser-assisted cutting of paper, but the good ol' knife or saw would still be cheaper.

share|improve this answer
Are you sure? What about Uncle Al's answer? – Apurv Mar 7 '14 at 16:42
The question explicitly mentions acids, and as such I've limited my answer to them. I personally think that filling your pen with an oxidation agent is just as bad, and I'm not sure if the cellulase solution actually would work. – tschoppi Mar 7 '14 at 16:44
Soluble cellulose derivatives enzymatically cleave as fast as solutions are mixed. Bulk cellulose is slower. The is no point in using chemistry with residues when lasers are so fast and exact, e.g., laser greeting cards. – Uncle Al Mar 7 '14 at 20:23
@UncleAl We are using chemistry here for fun. And btw, where from will I get a heavy duty laser pointer to cut loads of paper? – Awal Garg Mar 8 '14 at 7:12

In principle, a solution of white phosphorus in carbon disulfide ($\ce{CS2}$) can be used as an "ink" to set paper on fire. This video demonstrates the effect.

Is it a good idea? NO!

While the disgusting smell of carbonyl sulfide ($\ce{COS}$) often found as an impurity is just a nuisance, the solvent itself is neutotoxic. But it gets worse:

White phosphorus may cause awful deep third degree burns on your body!

So, unless you want to qualify for the Darwin Award, don't mess around with this!

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the video link. I had initially thought of using a white phosphorous sprinkler, but then, I realized it would be too much clumsy. I don't want a Darwin Award. I was just trying to make some James Bond kinda guddies... – Awal Garg Mar 8 '14 at 7:15
Load the pen with a cellulase solution.
Load the pen with a cellulose solvent.

Paper is bulk cut with blades or lasers.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.