“Fireproof banknote” experiment

Why doesn't the banknote burn?

If you soak a ban­knote in a mix­ture of al­co­hol and wa­ter, and then set fire to it, the al­co­hol will burn, but will leave the pa­per in­tact.

Reagents and equip­ment:

  • ethanol or iso­propanol (ap­prox­i­mate­ly 10 ml);
  • wa­ter;
  • a small ban­knote;
  • a glass dish;
  • tweez­ers;
  • lighter.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

Pre­pare a mix­ture of ethanol or iso­propanol with wa­ter in a ra­tio of 1:1. If you are us­ing 70% ethanol, mix it with wa­ter in a ra­tio of 3:7. Pour the wa­ter and al­co­hol mix­ture into the dish. Soak the small ban­knote in this mix­ture, and make sure it is com­plete­ly soaked. Pick up the ban­knote with the tweez­ers, let the liq­uid drip off a lit­tle, then re­move the dish with the al­co­hol and wa­ter mix­ture. Set fire to the ban­knote. It is best to con­duct the ex­per­i­ment in a dark room.

Pro­cess­es de­scrip­tion

Al­co­hols such as ethanol or iso­propanol ig­nite eas­i­ly. Ethanol burns with the for­ma­tion of car­bon diox­ide and wa­ter:

C₂H₅OH + 3O₂ → 2CO₂ + 3H₂O

A lot of heat will be re­leased in the re­ac­tion, but it will still not be enough to ig­nite the soaked pa­per.

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. Fol­low gen­er­al safe­ty rec­om­men­da­tions. Chem­i­cal ex­per­i­ments must be car­ried out in full com­pli­ance with the leg­is­la­tion of your coun­try.

Warn­ing! Only un­der pro­fes­sion­al su­per­vi­sion.