Fire Without Matches: Twenty-Three Spontaneously-Igniting Reactions

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

2400 Articles

By Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

2400 Articles

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Really wonderful community video collaboration from the chem-hackers of sciencemadness.org, including MAKE pal and guest blogger Hayden Parker. Over about fourteen minutes, we are treated to a bench-side view of two dozen energetic reactions that share an interesting property: reagents that, on mixing, spontaneously burst into flame.

My favorite of the lot is the beautiful, er, “purple haze” produced by the reaction of finely divided aluminum and iodine, which starts at 5:50. A close second is the unusual solid-phase reaction between vitamin c and sodium chlorite—two dry powders that spontaneously burn when stirred or shaken together—which starts at 5:00.