Chemical fire from sulfuric acid, potassium permanganate and acetone

Light a fire without matches and lighters, use only chemistry!

Scientific name: Ignition paper with acetone in contact with the igniting mixture sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate


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Be careful with concentrated sulfuric acid - use safety goggles, a protective gown and gloves. Keep a safe distance.There is a fire risk - a fire extinguisher should be ready.

Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

2KMnO4 + 2H2SO4 → 2KHSO4 + Mn2O7 + H2O

5C6H12O6 + 12Mn2O7 + 24H2SO4 → 30CO2 + 24MnSO4 + 54H2O

5C3H6O + 8Mn2O7 + 16H2SO4 → 15CO2 + 16MnSO4 + 31H2O

C3H6O + 4O2 → 3CO2 + 3H2O

Step-by-step instruction

  1. Take a refractory plate such as ceramic or steel plate.
  2. Put on a plate a little piece of paper or cotton wool. Pour a small amount of acetone onto the paper.
  3. Take a pipette or capillary tube and lower it into concentrated sulfuric acid. Be careful! You will need 2-3 drops of acid.
  4. Take a very small amount of potassium permanganate and put it on the fire-proof surface. Touch the potassium permanganate with the end of pipette.
  5. Touch the paper with acetone with end of the pipette. It lights up!

Scientific background

Potassium permanganate is a very effective oxidizer, however its dehydrated form - Mn2O7 - is a more strong oxidizer. This oxide is formed by the reaction between potassium permanganate and concentrated sulfuric acid. Manganese (VII) oxide is green:

2KMnO4 + 2H2SO4 → 2KHSO4 + Mn2O7 + H2O

This powerful oxidant may react violently with various reducing agents such as sugar (glucose), cellulose and others. Paper (cellulose) has the chemical formula (C6H10O5)n. But you see below the oxidation reaction of glucose and not cellulose. This is done to make stoichiometric ratios simpler:

5C6H12O6 + 12Mn2O7 + 24H2SO4 → 30CO2 + 24MnSO4 + 54H2O

Also, manganese oxide (VII) may react with acetone oxide, which is a reducing agent:

5C3H6O + 8Mn2O7 + 16H2SO4 → 15CO2 + 16MnSO4 + 31H2O

These reaction is exothermic, i.e. the mixture is heated in the reaction. Therefore, in addition to the oxidation of acetone by manganese oxide (VII), acetone ignites when heated:

C3H6O + 4O2 → 3CO2 + 3H2O


Published on 18 March 2015

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst