Tuesday 21 October 2014

Can You Hold Fire In Your Hand?

Fire is very dangerous. But, did you know that you actually can juggle it in your hands with a bit of help from science? To do so, you need to make a cloth ball that's made of 100% cotton. You could use your old t-shirts to make itTake the piece of cloth, then roll it up into a ball. Push the thread through the cloth with a needle. Wrap and sew it into a shape of ballMake sure it is not synthetic fibre like nylon or polyester because it might burn or melt, with unpleasant consequences. Other materials that you will need to prepare are some hand sanitizer, salt, a lighter, a fire-proof baking or frying pan, tongs and a responsible adult to help you.
To start with, you will need to locate and prepare a safe environment. While these handheld fireballs maintain low temperatures, it can still burn and ignite other materials in the process. Put a pail of water nearby or do it near a sink. In case you panic you can just drop the fireball into the pail or sink. You can also put the frying pan lid over the fireball to suffocate the flame. There is no point in trying to blow the fireball out as it is quite hard to do so. 

First, mix the hand sanitizer with some salt and swirl it in the baking pan. Soak the cloth ball in that mixture with tongs. To further protect your hands, sprinkle some water on your palm to create a barrier from the heat. Use tongs to pick the cloth ball up. Get your responsible adult to light it and then quickly roll the ball back and forth with both hands so that you won’t feel the heat or burn your hands. The trick is to not hold it for too long in one hand. Put it back in the baking pan when you lose your courage handling it.  Ta-da!

Salt is added to the hand sanitizer to give off yellow flames so that you can see it. If salt is not added, the flame will be almost invisible or blue and white in color. It doesn’t hurt when you hold the fireball because ethanol from the hand sanitizer evaporates before the ball gets hot. Another reason is because the heat is not being transferred to the hands as the ball is moving constantly. Here's a video of how we do it in Petrosains:

The process of combustion requires 3 main properties which are oxygen, fuel and heat. In this case, fuel comes from the ethanol in the hand sanitizer and the heat is from the lighter.

The fireballs are reusable. Put them out when they run out of fuel or else the cotton will burn (you can tell this is happening when the ball starts to blacken and produce sooty smoke). If you get to the point where the cotton itself is burning, the fireball will be too hot to hold. Ideally you should extinguish the fireball before it consumes all of its fuel. To reuse it, soak it in more lighter fluid and relight it. 

Lastly, remember to use proper safety precautions and common sense. Don't get burned or set your house on fire. This project is best for adults. If you're not an adult, make sure you have FULL ADULT SUPERVISION and assistance! Stay safe, enjoy and understand the science.

Shared by Melissa
Guest Blogger


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