"Acetone flashlight" experiment

How to make copper glow in the dark

In this ex­per­i­ment, an in­can­des­cent cop­per wire burns in a flask filled with ace­tone va­por.

Reagents and equip­ment:

  • ace­tone;
  • cop­per wire;
  • a large flask (~1l);
  • burn­er.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

Pour 20-30 ml of ace­tone into a large flask (~1 l). Shake the flask, so that the air space in it fills with ace­tone va­por. Roll the cop­per wire into a spi­ral and heat it with a burn­er un­til it turns red. Care­ful­ly low­er the cop­per wire into the flask so that the wire does not touch the sur­face of the ace­tone. Watch as the spi­ral be­gins to glow more and more bright­ly. We rec­om­mend you con­duct the ex­per­i­ment in a dark room.

Pro­cess­es de­scrip­tion

Ace­tone is a high­ly volatile liq­uid. Its va­por quick­ly fills the air space in the flask. When the in­can­des­cent cop­per wire is low­ered into the ace­tone va­por, a re­ac­tion be­gins on the sur­face of the met­al, cat­alyzed by the cop­per:

CH₃­COCH₃ + 3/2O₂ -[Cu]→ CH₃­CHO + CO₂ + H₂O

In this re­ac­tion a great deal of heat is re­leased, so the cop­per wire does not cool down, and heats up even more, which ex­plains why it glows.

Safe­ty pre­cau­tions

Avoid burns! Wear pro­tec­tive glass­es and gloves. Don’t con­duct the ex­per­i­ment near flammable sub­stances and ob­jects. Fire-ex­tin­guish­ing equip­ment should be at the ready. The ex­per­i­ment should be car­ried out in a fume hood or a well-ven­ti­lat­ed room. Fol­low gen­er­al safe­ty rec­om­men­da­tions. Chem­i­cal ex­per­i­ments must be car­ried out in full com­pli­ance with the leg­is­la­tion of your coun­try.

Warn­ing! Sub­stances of this ex­per­i­ment are tox­ic and high­ly dan­ger­ous for your health. Do not try this at home. Only un­der pro­fes­sion­al su­per­vi­sion.