Wax fire

Last updated
A wax fire generated with a can of boiling wax in a fire pit. Wax Fire Anim.gif
A wax fire generated with a can of boiling wax in a fire pit.

A wax fire is created when melted or boiling wax is doused in water. The ensuing reaction creates a large fireball or enlarges the flame of the already existing fire incredibly. Only a small amount of wax and water is needed to create a wax fire.

Fire rapid oxidation of a material

Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition.

Wax class of chemical compounds that are plastic (malleable) near ambient temperatures.

Waxes are a diverse class of organic compounds that are lipophilic, malleable solids near ambient temperatures. They include higher alkanes and lipids, typically with melting points above about 40 °C (104 °F), melting to give low viscosity liquids. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, nonpolar solvents. Natural waxes of different types are produced by plants and animals and occur in petroleum.

Contents

Chemistry behind the reaction

Following the basic rules of the fire triangle, for a reaction to take place three ingredients are required: oxygen, fuel, and heat. In the case of wax melted down, only the top surface has access to oxygen, so the fire progresses slowly. When water is added to the wax, two things happen. Firstly, the water — being denser than wax — sinks to the bottom of the container. Secondly, as burning wax quickly reaches a temperature of well over 200 degrees C, the water instantly vapourises. When water changes from a liquid to a gas, there is more than a thousand-fold increase in volume. The water expands violently, and throws the hot wax layer above it into the air as small droplets. The wax now has a much bigger surface area exposed to oxygen so combustion takes place very quickly.

Fire triangle model for understanding the necessary ingredients for most fires

The Fire Triangle or Combustion Triangle is a simple model for understanding the necessary ingredients for most fires.

Oxygen Chemical element with atomic number 8

Oxygen is the chemical element with the symbol O and atomic number 8. It is a member of the chalcogen group on the periodic table, a highly reactive nonmetal, and an oxidizing agent that readily forms oxides with most elements as well as with other compounds. By mass, oxygen is the third-most abundant element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium. At standard temperature and pressure, two atoms of the element bind to form dioxygen, a colorless and odorless diatomic gas with the formula O
2
. Diatomic oxygen gas constitutes 20.8% of the Earth's atmosphere. As compounds including oxides, the element makes up almost half of the Earth's crust.

For similar reasons, water should never be used to extinguish burning grease or fat, which both behave similarly to wax. Water is ineffective at putting out other flammable liquid fires, but in most liquids (e.g. petrol), the water remains as a liquid, and spreads the fire by allowing the liquid to float and burn on top of it. One should instead use baking soda to extinguish a wax fire.

See also

Wax burning

Wax burning, also known as wax boiling, is the heating of candle wax to high temperatures in a container as a form of entertainment.

Boilover

A boilover type of fire refers to an extremely hazardous situation where an attempt is made to extinguish semi-enclosed oil or petrochemical fueled fire with water. The hazard results due to the difference in density between oil and water.

Related Research Articles

Raku ware

Raku ware is a type of Japanese pottery traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies, most often in the form of chawan tea bowls. It is traditionally characterised by being hand-shaped rather than thrown, fairly porous vessels, which result from low firing temperatures, lead glazes and the removal of pieces from the kiln while still glowing hot. In the traditional Japanese process, the fired raku piece is removed from the hot kiln and is allowed to cool in the open air. The familiar technique of placing the ware in a container filled with combustible material is not a traditional Raku practice.

Sulfuric acid chemical compound

Sulfuric acid (alternative spelling sulphuric acid), also known as vitriol, is a mineral acid composed of the elements sulfur, oxygen and hydrogen, with molecular formula H2SO4. It is a colorless, odorless, and syrupy liquid that is soluble in water, in a reaction that is highly exothermic.

Solvent substance that dissolves a solute (a chemically different liquid, solid or gas), resulting in a solution

A solvent is a substance that dissolves a solute, resulting in a solution. A solvent is usually a liquid but can also be a solid, a gas, or a supercritical fluid. The quantity of solute that can dissolve in a specific volume of solvent varies with temperature. Common uses for organic solvents are in dry cleaning, as paint thinners, as nail polish removers and glue solvents, in spot removers, in detergents and in perfumes (ethanol). Water is a solvent for polar molecules and the most common solvent used by living things; all the ions and proteins in a cell are dissolved in water within a cell. Solvents find various applications in chemical, pharmaceutical, oil, and gas industries, including in chemical syntheses and purification processes.

Candle solid block of wax with embedded wick

A candle is an ignitable wick embedded in wax, or another flammable solid substance such as tallow, that provides light, and in some cases, a fragrance. A candle can also provide heat, or be used as a method of keeping time. The candle can be used during the event of a power outage to provide light.

Thermite mixture

Thermite is a pyrotechnic composition of metal powder, which serves as fuel, and metal oxide. When ignited by heat, thermite undergoes an exothermic reduction-oxidation (redox) reaction. Most varieties are not explosive, but can create brief bursts of heat and high temperature in a small area. Its form of action is similar to that of other fuel-oxidizer mixtures, such as black powder.

Boiling type of vaporization; bulk phenomenon.

Boiling is the rapid vaporization of a liquid, which occurs when a liquid is heated to its boiling point, the temperature at which the vapour pressure of the liquid is equal to the pressure exerted on the liquid by the surrounding atmosphere. There are two main types of boiling: nucleate boiling where small bubbles of vapour form at discrete points, and critical heat flux boiling where the boiling surface is heated above a certain critical temperature and a film of vapor forms on the surface. Transition boiling is an intermediate, unstable form of boiling with elements of both types. The boiling point of water is 100 °C or 212 °F but is lower with the decreased atmospheric pressure found at higher altitudes.

Campfire fire lit at a campsite

A campfire is a fire at a campsite that provides light and warmth, and heat for cooking. It can also serve as a beacon, and an insect and predator deterrent. Established campgrounds often provide a stone or steel fire ring for safety. Campfires are a popular feature of camping. At summer camps, the word campfire often refers to an event at which there is a fire. Some camps refer to the fire itself as a campfire.

Fire eating the act of putting a flaming object into the mouth and extinguishing it, either as a part of Hindu, Sadhu, or Fakir performance to show spiritual attainment, or as a sideshow or circus act (starting in the late 1880s)

Fire eating is the act of putting a flaming object into the mouth and extinguishing it. A fire eater can be an entertainer, a street performer, part of a sideshow or a circus act but has also been part of spiritual tradition in India.

Temperature play is a form of BDSM sensual play where objects and substances are used to stimulate the body's neuroreceptors for heat and cold for sensual effect.

Firefighting actions to protect people, animals, goods, lands, and other objects from fire

Firefighting is the act of attempting to prevent the spread of and extinguish significant unwanted fires in buildings, vehicles, woodlands, etc. A firefighter suppresses fires to protect lives, property and the environment.

Firebox (steam engine) part of a steam engine

In a steam engine, the firebox is the area where the fuel is burned, producing heat to boil the water in the boiler. Most are somewhat box-shaped, hence the name. The hot gases generated in the firebox are pulled through a rack of tubes running through the boiler.

Steam explosion violent boiling or flashing of water into steam

A steam explosion is an explosion caused by violent boiling or flashing of water into steam, occurring when water is either superheated, rapidly heated by fine hot debris produced within it, or heated by the interaction of molten metals. Pressure vessels, such as pressurized water (nuclear) reactors, that operate above atmospheric pressure can also provide the conditions for a steam explosion. The water changes from a liquid to a gas with extreme speed, increasing dramatically in volume. A steam explosion sprays steam and boiling-hot water and the hot medium that heated it in all directions, creating a danger of scalding and burning.

Buddy Burner

A Buddy Burner is a simple stove made from a can and part of a corrugated paper box. It is usually fueled by paraffin wax but other fuels, such as boiled butter, animal fat or diesel fuel, can be used. It is usually used for cooking but can also provide heat.

Candle wick cotton that holds the flame of a candle for a set period of time

A candle wick is usually a braided cotton that holds the flame of an oil lamp or candle. A candle wick works by capillary action, conveying ("wicking") the fuel to the flame. When the liquid fuel, typically melted candle wax, reaches the flame it then vaporizes and combusts. The candle wick influences how the candle burns. Important characteristics of the wick include diameter, stiffness, fire-resistance, and tethering.

Oxy-fuel welding and cutting acetylene V propane

Oxy-fuel welding and oxy-fuel cutting are processes that use fuel gases and oxygen to weld or cut metals. French engineers Edmond Fouché and Charles Picard became the first to develop oxygen-acetylene welding in 1903. Pure oxygen, instead of air, is used to increase the flame temperature to allow localized melting of the workpiece material in a room environment. A common propane/air flame burns at about 2,250 K, a propane/oxygen flame burns at about 2,526 K, an oxyhydrogen flame burns at 3,073 K and an acetylene/oxygen flame burns at about 3,773 K.

Fire extinguisher an active fire protection device

A fire extinguisher is an active fire protection device used to extinguish or control small fires, often in emergency situations. It is not intended for use on an out-of-control fire, such as one which has reached the ceiling, endangers the user, or otherwise requires the expertise of a fire brigade. Typically, a fire extinguisher consists of a hand-held cylindrical pressure vessel containing an agent which can be discharged to extinguish a fire. Fire extinguishers manufactured with non-cylindrical pressure vessels also exist but are less common.

Properties of water Physical and chemical properties of pure water

Water is a polar inorganic compound that is at room temperature a tasteless and odorless liquid, which is nearly colorless apart from an inherent hint of blue. It is by far the most studied chemical compound and is described as the "universal solvent" and the "solvent of life". It is the most abundant substance on Earth and the only common substance to exist as a solid, liquid, and gas on Earth's surface. It is also the third most abundant molecule in the universe.