Ice on Fire Chemistry Demonstration

Fire and Ice Chemical Reaction

You can make ice appear to be on fire.
You can make ice appear to be on fire. PM Images/Getty Images

Set real water ice on fire using a simple chemical reaction. This easy chemistry demonstration is sure to please!

Ice on Fire Project Materials

The key ingredient for the project (aside from ice) is calcium carbide.

  • Calcium carbide chips or granules
  • Ice
  • 2-liter beaker

Set Ice on Fire

  1. Pour about a teaspoon of calcium carbide in the bottom of the beaker.
  2. Fill the beaker with ice.
  3. Use a long handled lighter to ignite the "ice".

Alternately, you could secretly place a bit of calcium carbide in a large bowl, fill it with ice, and toss a burning match onto the bowl of ice. The goal is to keep your hand out of the gas while it ignites.

How It Works

As the ice melts, the water reacts with calcium carbide to produce acetylene gas, which is flammable, and calcium hydroxide. The reaction proceeds according to this chemical equation:

CaC2(s) + 2 H2O(l) → C2H2(g) + Ca(OH)2(s)

The acetylene produces a burst of flame when it is ignited. More acetylene is produced as the ice melts and reacts with the remaining calcium carbide.


  • Don't add the ice or expose the calcium carbide to water/humidity until you are ready to perform the demonstration. You don't need a build-up of acetylene.
  • It's fire -- this demonstration should only be performed by an adult.
  • It's advisable to place a plexiglass blast shield between the container and the audience, in case the beaker shatters from thermal stress or the fire expands outward too much. These are not expected to occur, but are reasonable safety precautions.
  • As always, it's good to wear safety goggles, gloves and protective clothing, plus it looks cool for the demonstration.
  • Perform this demonstration away from other sources of flame or from flammable materials.

Related Chemistry Demonstrations

Now that you've got calcium carbide, what else can you do with it? Another fun project is the
self-carving jack-o'-lantern.