The chemistry of lighting a match.
If you want to see in a dark room, light a match. It's simple isn't it? Not so fast, it is actually quite complex. A slow motion video at 40,000 frames per second shows the process. The completed video spreads out 0.10 of a second into one and a half minutes.
The main ingredient of a match head is antimony trisulfide: potassium chlorate makes this burn. Ammonium phosphate is also there to reduce particles from escaping, but some smoke is inevitable. Paraffin wax coats the match down to the halfway mark to ensure the flame continues on down the matchstick.
Powdered glass and red phosphate in the strike strip on the side of the matchbox ignites by friction when the head of the match is drawn across the strip. Oxygen comes in causing ignition turning the red phosphorous into white phosphorous. Fire and flame ensues from the heated potassium chlorate. Oxygen plus sulfide makes the flame burn longer.
So when you next light a match think of the complex process, then go on doing your mundane task. Lighting a fire? haven't you been told not to fight fire with fire? Oh, you do fight/light fire with fire!
◆ Chemistry by Ty Buchanan ◆
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