How to Start Green Fire With a Drop of Water

Green Fire
Yuji Sakai, Getty Images

You don't need a match to start a fire. In this project, start a fire by adding a drop of water to a dry chemical mixture. The best part? The flames will be green!

Fire Safety

You should be able to tell from the premise that this is an adult-only project, best performed by someone with prior pyrotechnic project experience. Follow the instructions carefully to minimize the risk of a fire. You're using water to start a combustion reaction, so keep your materials away from moisture, soft drinks, perspiration, etc. Got it?

Green Materials

If you don't have a cold pack, you can use pure ammonium nitrate, which is available online.

You can buy zinc filings or powder online or you can sand a galvanized piece of metal from a hardware store to get the element. If you have to file or sand the zinc, it's a good idea to wear a mask, such as the kind used for home repair, so you don't inhale zinc particles.

Procedure for Starting the Green Flames

  1. Open the cold pack. Remove and discard the bag of water. Open the bag of ammonium nitrate. Measure out 3 grams of the granules and put them in the mortar.
  2. Add 1/2 gram of sodium chloride (salt).
  3. Use the pestle to grind together the salt and ammonium nitrate to form a powder.
  4. Carefully grind the 7 grams of zinc powder into this mixture. Water can ignite the mixture at this point, so don't spill your drink or drip sweat into the powder. It's a good idea to wear disposable plastic gloves, because you don't want the final mixture reacting with water on your hands.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a metal or otherwise fire-proof container. Take it outdoors to start the reaction. Use a pipette or other long-handled dispensing device to add a few drops of water. The reaction can be spectacular, so move back immediately.

Another reaction you can do using these materials is to mix ammonium nitrate with zinc and initiate combustion by adding a few drops of hydrochloric (muriatic) acid.

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