228 votes
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Why doesn't water burn?

You can think of water as the ash from burning hydrogen: it's already given off as much energy as possible from reacting hydrogen with oxygen. You can, however, still burn it. You just need an even ...
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  • 2,089
112 votes

Why doesn't water burn?

This is the reaction that occurs when hydrogen combusts: $$ \ce{2H2 + O2 -> 2H2O} $$ Similarly, this is the combustion reaction for methane, a representative fuel: $$ \ce{CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + ...
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80 votes
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Why does shaking a match put the fire out?

Combustion of small materials, such as a match or birthday candle, actually involve the release of volatile vapours, which themselves burn. It is not the solid material that burns. There needs to be a ...
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53 votes

Why does wood burn but not sugar?

Combustion is a gas phase reaction. The heat of the flame vapourises the substrate and it's the vapour that reacts with the air. That's why heat is needed to get combustion started. Anyhow, wood ...
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  • 1,860
44 votes

Why doesn't water burn?

$\ce{H2O2}$ exists, and could be what you expect by burning water (since burning is really oxidizing, or adding oxygen.) However, in stoichiometric proportions, here is what would happen: Either ...
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  • 549
43 votes
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Why doesn't NASA or SpaceX use ozone as an oxidizer for rocket fuels?

As is usual with rocket fuels, the problems of ozone are practicality not performance Almost every answer for why a specific rocket fuel component is used or not will end up referring to John D Clarke'...
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38 votes
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Does any known substance ignite on cooling?

Actually... yes! Iron(II) oxide is thermodynamically unstable below $848~\mathrm K$. As it cools down to room temperature (it has to do it slowly) it disproportionates to iron(II,III) oxide and iron: ...
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32 votes
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Why do the alkali metals form different products upon combustion in air?

Since I will deal with all of the alkali metals in this answer, I think the question should also be broadened. There is no point in covering one single metal (sodium) without touching the others since ...
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32 votes

Would the concentration of oxygen around fire increase as we get close to the fire (from the outside)

A fire has no way to directly "draw in" oxygen for it to burn. It consumes what oxygen is in the immediate vicinity of the flame, depleting the air in oxygen compared to the concentration of oxygen in ...
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32 votes
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When a candle burns, why does the top of wick glow if bottom of flame is hottest?

The wick temperature does not have to be the same as the flame temperature.The flame is hottest at the bottom, but the wick is hottest at the top. For a candle, the wick burning isn't the intended ...
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28 votes
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What really happens atomically in an explosion?

The combustion of alkanes like butane is fearsomely complicated involving dozens of transient compounds and hundreds of different reaction. If you have a few spare hours there is a dissertation that ...
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  • 1,860
28 votes

When a candle burns, why does the top of wick glow if bottom of flame is hottest?

Because fire is not the same thing as light. Michael Faraday did a wonderful job of explaining how the candle works, and I direct you to look at it (there are also Youtube videos giving a modern take ...
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25 votes
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How do self-relighting (trick) birthday candles work?

In normal candles, as you blow them out, you will see burning embers in the candles, which vaporises the wax and thus causes a ribbon of paraffin wax to rise up (this looks like a wisp of smoke). ...
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24 votes

Can flames be colored black?

This video shows how a black flame is achieved. If you illuminate the fire with a monochromatic light source (sodium vapor lamp) and introduce a species in the fire that absorbs that wavelength (...
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23 votes
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On heating in the Earth's atmosphere, can magnesium react with nitrogen to form magnesium nitride?

A large pile of grey magnesium powder, when lit in air, produces a smouldering pile which cools down to reveal a crusty white solid of magnesium oxide. However, if you break apart the mound, you can ...
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21 votes
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Why is there sulfur in black powder / gun powder?

Black powder is a mixture of solids. As solids, they are not particularly inclined toward fast reactions between each other. Elevated temperature generally liven things up, because it allows diffusion ...
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21 votes

When I burn isopropyl alcohol (IPA), it burns orange. But when I burn ethyl alcohol, it burns totally blue. Why is this?

IPA has a different carbon:hydrogen ratio than ethanol. There is more incomplete combustion occurring with IPA, hence the smoky orange flame and smell of soot. Ethanol combusts more completely, ...
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20 votes
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Heats of combustion and stability of rings

Compounds A-D all have the same molecular formula, $\ce{C6H12}$. We can burn each compound and measure the heat given off (heat of combustion). Since they are isomers, they will each burn according ...
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  • 81.6k
20 votes

Where does the energy from combustion come from?

Better is to say "Energy released by forming bonds of combustion products is bigger than energy needed to break bonds of combustion reactants.". Particularly breaking $\ce{C-C}$, $\ce{C-H}$ ...
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19 votes
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CH4 + O2 => CO2 + 2H2, what's wrong with it?

The reaction as you state it is correct only if there will react only one molecule of oxygen. But the reaction describes burning of methane which is supposed to be in the presence of excess of oxygen. ...
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19 votes

Are all volatile liquids combustible?

Many volatile liquids are not combustible Dichloromethane (DCM) is a widely used solvent by chemists. It boils at around 40°C (the same as diethyl ether) but is not remotely combustible or flammable. ...
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19 votes

What is going on in and below a yellow or blue gas flame?

The yellow emission has a continuous spectrum. So it is not due to an atom or of a molecule. It is due to a solid black body, hot enough to emit light (about $1000$°C). The solid stuff is solid carbon ...
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18 votes

Can diamond undergo a self sustaining combustion reaction all the way to carbon dioxide?

Yes, diamond will combust in air. Regardless of the ambient air temperature, e.g. your example of $21\ \mathrm{^\circ C}$, you of course have to heat it to it's ignition temperature somehow, whether ...
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18 votes

What single, pure compound would best replace petrol?

Higher $\mathrm{RON}$ seems possible. Yet the boiling point rises accordingly while heat of combustion remains roughly the same. Here are two compounds that fit all posed criteria. \begin{array}{|c|c|...
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18 votes
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When I burn isopropyl alcohol (IPA), it burns orange. But when I burn ethyl alcohol, it burns totally blue. Why is this?

Interesting observation. The blue flame color of all hydrocarbon fuels is due to the emission small diatomic carbon species such $C_2$ or CH. There is nothing magical about IPA having a yellow flame. ...
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18 votes
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Does all fire only emit light on its outermost shell?

The answer is NO. The article you quote makes a completely unwarranted generalisation that "all flames are hollow". This is true of some flames but only because the fuel that is burning is ...
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17 votes
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Can paper burn without oxygen or air?

No, the paper will not burn without oxygen being present. Paper is made primarily of cellulose which is a polymer of glucose. If you heat paper in a vacuum the cellulose simply decomposes to $\ce{...
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  • 81.6k
17 votes

How can solids undergo combustion if it only occurs in the gas phase?

Combustion is a gaseous phase phenomenon. Oil and gasoline have a high enough vapor pressure at ambient temperatures to produce a gaseous phase of fuel above the liquid. In contrast, hold a lighter up ...
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  • 23.2k
15 votes

Why doesn't the carbon dioxide produced by a fire put out said fire?

The fuel for the chemical reaction is the CH4 (in this case) and the oxygen. Assuming the CH4 isn't going to run out any time soon, the chemical reaction will continue as long as there is enough ...
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  • 301
15 votes

Why doesn't NASA or SpaceX use ozone as an oxidizer for rocket fuels?

Liquid ozone is rather stable (as in "can be stored") as an up to 70% solution in LOx, if you add some stabilisers. That would give quite a bit of additional boost in a rocket, but it's ...
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