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If a plain pile of sugar (or a sugar cube) is heated with a torch, it just melts and gives off smoke. However, if some paper or wood ashes are added, it burns quite easily. What are the ingredients of the wood ash that allow this to happen? If I just used sodium carbonate instead of wood ash, would it work as well?

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    $\begingroup$ Yes. It just keeps the sugar from melting into a closed surface. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ According to an old book I once had, the catalyst is potassium oxide. Sodium carbonate probably won't work, but potassium carbonate should do the trick. $\endgroup$
    – vapid
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 8:49

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