I was teaching the lime cycle to some children yesterday. I had a limestone chip (about 10g) held at the tip of a blue Bunsen flame for several minutes. It decomposed and disintegrated but only glowed very slightly, and was mostly orange with a bit of white at the tip.

It certainly gave off white light, but nowhere near the quantities required to light a theatre stage, which is what this stuff is famous for, not by a few orders of magnitude.

I tried sitting it on gauze and bringing in a second Bunsen flame from the side, but this did not improve the effect. I recall seeing quite a bright light when this was shown to me as a child.

Any theories on what went wrong? Any gotchas for doing this kind of experiment?


Perhaps your flame wasn't hot enough. Real limelights used oxyhydrogen torches, not wimpy natural gas flames.

Or perhaps your limestone chip wasn't just $\ce{CaCO3}$. If it was dolomitic limestone, there was a lot of $\ce{MgCO3}$, too, and $\ce{MgO}$ doesn't do the trick like $\ce{CaO}$ does.


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