Colored alcohol flames

Create beautifully colored flames by burning alcohol with various additions

Scientific name: Various substances dye the alcohol flame


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Carry out the experiment in distance of highly flammable substances and objects. Methyl alcohol is very toxic!

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

Reaction formula

2CH3OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 4H2O

C2H5OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 3H2O

2C3H8O + 9O2 → 6CO2 + 8H2O

Me → Me* → Me +hv

Step-by-step instruction

  1. Take a few gramms of salts of lithium, sodium, potassium, strontium, barium, magnesium, copper(II). You also may take boric acid.
  2. Take as many Petri dishes as you use reagents (you may use another type of thermostable glassware).
  3. Put a few grams of each reagent in individual Petri dishes.
  4. Pour some alcohol (methyl, ethyl or iso-propyl) into each dish.
  5. Ignite alcohol in the dishes.

Scientific background

Ions of some elements emit specific wave length light when heated in the flame. Due to this, the flame is colored in various colors:

Lithium - red;

Sodium - yellow;

Pottasium - violet;

Strontium - red-orange;

Barium - yellow-green;

Magnesium - orange-yellow;

Copper(II) - green;

Boric acid - green.


Published on 01 January 2015

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