Nonburning Handkerchief

A cotton handkerchief is doused in a liquid and set on fire, but the handkerchief doesn't burn. MATERIALS
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cotton handkerchief or peso bill 50% solution of isopropyl alcohol and water small amount of salt (sodium chloride) matches or cigarette lighter tongs, at least 30 cm long bucket of water (recommended) coin and cigarette (optional)

PROCEDURE A brightly colored, cotton handkerchief is taken from the pocket, or better yet, from a volunteer planted in the audience and is soaked in a liquid and set on fire[1]. While holding the handkerchief with tongs and watching the blue flame, one points out that the handkerchief is not burning. Finally the handkerchief is snuffed out with a quick jerk or doused in a bucket of water and passed around for inspection or returned to the volunteer. For more drama, an assistant can put out the flame with a fire extinguisher. The volunteer can be asked to hold up the handkerchief for everyone to see. In this demonstration, the liquid used is a 50/50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water. Methanol or ethanol can be substituted for the isopropyl alcohol. Some salt in the solution will help to make the flame more visible. Other combustible materials, such as paper, can also be used in place of the handkerchief[2]. A dollar bill provided by someone in the audience is especially effective. Note carefully the purity of the alcohol before mixing. Rubbing alcohol as sold in drug stores is often 30% or more water. One could repeat the demonstration with varying mixtures of alcohol and water. Too much water will prevent the alcohol from burning, and too little water will allow the cloth or paper to char. In a variation of the demonstration, a dry cotton cloth is wrapped tightly around a coin, and a lighted cigarette is touched to the cloth. The coin absorbs the heat and keeps the temperature below the point where the cloth burns. DISCUSSION This demonstration illustrates the variation in the temperature required to support combustion in different substances. The alcohol burns at a temperature below the kindling temperature of the cotton. In addition, the heating and vaporization of the water removes heat and prevents the cloth from burning. HAZARDS Although the flame is relatively cool, it is capable of producing severe burns. Hold the handkerchief with a pair of very long tongs (30 cm or more) while it is ignited. Plan ahead to have a way to extinguish it before the water is completely vaporized or if it inadvertently drops to the floor while burning. Isopropyl alcohol can damage the eyes severely.


Vibrating Coin
Purpose To demonstrate the expansion of air when heated. Additional information The temperature of a gas is directly proportional to the speed with which its molecules move. Increasing the temperature of a gas results in an increase of the average speed (and therefore the kinetic energy) of its molecules. This in turn causes the molecules to µspread out¶ by virtue of a phenomenon known as thermal expansion. Required materials Coin Bottle Refrigerator Water Estimated Experiment Time Approximately 15 to 20 minutes Step-By-Step Procedure 1. Place an empty bottle in a refrigerator to cool 2. Place the cooled bottle outside 3. Dip your finger in water and place a few drops around mouth of the bottle and the edge of the coin 4. Place a coin on the mouth of the bottle 5. Place both your hands around the bottle; hold firmly 6. Remove your hands after a while Note Use a bottle with a mouth narrow enough to be closed completely with a coin. Applying water on the rim of the bottle mouth and the coin¶s edge will help seal the bottle. Observation In approximately fifteen seconds from covering the bottle with your hands, the coin will start to vibrate up and down. When you do remove your hands after a short while, the coin continues to vibrate. Result As soon as the bottle is taken out of the refrigerator the temperature of the gas inside the bottle begins to rise; encasing the bottle with your hands increases the temperature further. When the bottle is heated, the air molecules inside it start moving faster and these molecules collide with the coin with more energy. This results in increased pressure which in turn is caused by the expanding air that escapes though the rim of the coin and makes it vibrate.