"Sugar dragon" experiment

How to make a fire fountain

You won’t find any liv­ing drag­ons to­day, but you can recre­ate the fiery breath of the fear­some crea­ture through chem­istry. We present the “Sug­ar Drag­on” self-ig­ni­tion ex­per­i­ment.

Reagents and equip­ment:

  • match­box­es (10);
  • sug­ar pow­der (0.5 g );
  • con­cen­trat­ed sul­fu­ric acid (1 ml );
  • can­dle hold­er.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

For the ex­per­i­ment, we take 10 match­box­es. We re­move the ig­ni­tion com­pound (heads) from the match­es, and get a quan­ti­ty of 0.85 g. Then we sprin­kle this mass in a can­dle hold­er and mix it with sug­ar pow­der. We add sev­er­al drops of con­cen­trat­ed sul­fu­ric acid to the mix­ture. The mix­ture im­me­di­ate­ly ig­nites, and burns with a bright flame.

Pro­cess­es de­scrip­tion

Match­heads con­sist 50% of potas­si­um chlo­rate (KClO₃). As we know, potas­si­um chlo­rate is a very strong ox­i­diz­er, and sug­ar pow­der will act as a re­duc­er. In the pres­ence of con­cen­trat­ed sul­fu­ric acid, the dis­pro­por­tion­a­tion of potas­si­um chlo­rate (KClO₃) takes place with the for­ma­tion of chlo­rine diox­ide:

3K­ClO₃ + 2H₂­SO₄ → 2KHSO₄ + 2ClO₂ + KClO₄ + H₂O

Chlo­rine diox­ide ClO₂ is a strong and very en­er­get­ic ox­i­diz­er. ClO₂ will ini­ti­ate a re­ac­tion be­tween the chlo­rate and sug­ar. The in­ter­ac­tion of sug­ar and potas­si­um chlo­rate takes place vi­o­lent­ly, the mix­ture ig­nites and burns with a large amount of gas­es:

C₁₂H₂₂O₁₁ + 8K­ClO₃ = 8KCl + 12­CO₂ + 11H₂O

Safe­ty pre­cau­tions

In work­ing with con­cen­trat­ed sul­fu­ric acid, wear rub­ber gloves and pro­tec­tive glass­es. Main­tain a safe dis­tance from the source of fire and ob­serve fire safe­ty rules.

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