How to make your fingers smoke
The smoking fingers trick
Many magicians have a few chemistry tricks up their sleeve! Let’s talk about the secret behind how they make their fingers smoke.
Wear protective eyewear and a mask when performing this experiment. Work in a well-ventilated area. Do not perform this experiment often, even with professional supervision – phosphorus compounds are harmful to your health.
Reagents and equipment
- matchbox scratchpads;
- a porcelain bowl;
- a lighter.
The scratchpads are placed in the porcelain bowl and burned, and the unburned remnants are disposed of. A thick tar is left in the bowl. This tar is applied to the hands and rubbed between the fingers.
The scratchpads contain red phosphorus. As they burn, a thick tar containing phosphorus(V) oxide is formed in the porcelain bowl. Phosphorus(V) oxide rapidly absorbs water from the air to form phosphoric acid. When friction is applied, the phosphoric acid partially evaporates, creating a “smoky” effect.
4P + 5O₂ = P₄O₁₀
P₄O₁₀ + 6H₂O = 4H₃PO₄