Science, Tech, Math › Science Burning Money Chemistry Demonstration Share Flipboard Email Print Science Chemistry Projects & Experiments Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated June 03, 2020 The burning money demo is a neat "magic trick" that illustrates the process of combustion, the flammability of alcohol, and the special qualities of the material used to make currency. Fortunately, the money doesn't actually burn, which would be illegal. Scientific Concept Behind Burning Money ICHIRO / Getty Images A combustion reaction occurs between alcohol and oxygen, producing heat and light (energy) and carbon dioxide and water. C2H5OH + 3 O2 → 2 CO2 + 3 H2O + energy When the bill is soaked an alcohol-water solution, the alcohol has a high vapor pressure and is mainly on the outside of the material (a bill is more like fabric than paper, which is nice, if you've ever accidentally washed one). When the bill is lit, the alcohol is what actually burns. The temperature at which the alcohol burns is not high enough to evaporate the water, which has a high specific heat, so the bill remains wet and isn't able to catch fire on its own. After the alcohol has burned, the flame goes out, leaving a slightly damp dollar bill. Materials for Burning Money Demonstration petrroudny / Getty Images Here is what you need to perform the burning money demonstration: Dollar bill (higher denomination if you're brave)TongsMatches or a lighterSalt (or one of these chemicals if you want a colored flame)Solution of 50% alcohol and 50% water (you can mix 95% alcohol with water in a 1:1 ratio, if desired) Procedure for Burning Money Demonstration This $20 is on fire, but it is not being consumed by the flames. Anne Helmenstine Here's how to perform the burning money demonstration: Prepare the alcohol and water solution. You can mix 50 ml of water with 50 ml of 95-100% alcohol.Add a pinch salt or other colorant to the alcohol/water solution, to help produce a visible flame.Soak a dollar bill in the alcohol/water solution so that it is thoroughly wet.Use tongs to pick up the bill. Allow any excess liquid to drain. Move the damp bill away from the alcohol-water solution.Light the bill on fire and allow it to burn until the flame goes out. Disclaimer Please be advised that the content provided by our website is for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. Fireworks and the chemicals contained within them are dangerous and should always be handled with care and used with common sense. By using this website you acknowledge that ThoughtCo., its parent About, Inc. (a/k/a Dotdash), and IAC/InterActive Corp. shall have no liability for any damages, injuries, or other legal matters caused by your use of fireworks or the knowledge or application of the information on this website. The providers of this content specifically do not condone using fireworks for disruptive, unsafe, illegal, or destructive purposes. You are responsible for following all applicable laws before using or applying the information provided on this website.