Whoosh Bottle

Alcohol vapors burn with dancing flame and “whoosh” sound.

Scientific name: Alcohol vapors burn rapidly because of large surface area for reaction to proceed.


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Do not use too much alcohol. Wear eye protection goggles. Keep a safe distance. There is a some 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

2CH3OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 4H2O

C2H5OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 3H2O

2C3H8O + 9O2 → 6CO2 + 8H2O

Step-by-step instruction

  1. To perform this experiment you need one or more of the following alcohols: methanol, ethanol, isopropanol.
  2. Prepare a large polycarbonate bottle for each alcohol you use. The volume of the bottle should be about 16-20 dm3. Coolers are suitable for this purpose. The vessel should be completely dry before the experiment.
  3. Pour about 30 ml of alcohol into the bottle.
  4. Wait for some time in order to fill the vessel with alcohol vapors.
  5. Light the wooden splint and hold it to the bottle neck to ignite the alcohol vapors. 6.I t will easily catch fire with a loud “woolsh” sound.

Scientific background

This experiment is based on the combustion reaction of alcohol vapors. Alcohols are volatile substances. They easily evaporate and fill the vessel mixing with oxygen of air. The alcohol vapors are also flammable and readily burn after ignition, producing carbon dioxide and water. Reactions look as follows:

For methanol:

2CH3OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 4H2O

For ethanol:

C2H5OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 3H2O

For isopropanol:

2C3H8O + 9O2 → 6CO2 + 8H2O

The combustion of vapors is very fast since the alcohol molecules in the gas phase have a much greater surface area for the reaction in comparison with the liquid state. Alcohol molecules are spread in the whole volume of the bottle. That’s why when they burn it looks like a dancing flame ring or plate. The confined space of the vessel and the rapidness of the combustion promote the “whoosh” sound occurring during the reaction.


Published on 04 March 2015

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