Which substance is consumed the fastest out of paper,
cloth, charcoal, and wood?
* * * * *
Hi, this is Dean's dad.
He is doing a science project - will weigh 60g of each substance listed
and place blowtorch underneath to see which burns / is consumed the
fastest - then weigh the ashes and try to make some sort of statement
about burning times ...
We are not sure if you all have any data / references to study combustion
in this sense.
There are several issues that you need to consider:
1. SAFETY Remember you are literally "playing with fire" so be sure you
have a way to extinguish any experiments that get out of hand. Work on a
fireproof table or have some non-flammable cover underneath your "furnace".
Have GOOD VENTILATION -- papers containing pigments may give off compounds
that contain toxic metals. An example is phthalocyanine blue. It contains
copper that may form copper oxide dust that you would not want to inhale. In
addition, some combustion products may be carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide,
and other toxic volatile gases.
2. PAPER There are many different grades and types of paper. The
"generic" composition of paper is cellulose fiber, some sort of organic
binder (essentially a "glue" that holds the fibers together), non-flammable
minerals such as calcium carbonate, or clay. Paper towels, toilet paper, and
newspaper for example contain little or none of these substances, but high
quality paper like a page out of National Geographics is loaded with these
non-flammable white pigments. Safety issue regarding pigments also apply
3. CHARCOAL As you know from your grill, you can ignite the charcoal and
it will burn slowly for a long time, so you need to determine how long you
are going to let the combustion continue. You need to be especially careful
here to have good ventilation (do experiment outside). A major combustion
product of charcoal is CARBON MONOXIDE -- odorless and extremely toxic.
4. CLOTH Some fabrics are treated with flame retardant materials, so you
need to be aware of that if the fabric you choose seems to keep
I did a quick "Google" search on the terms: "combustion products [XXXX]"
where [XXXX] = paper, fabrics, charcoal, wood. You will find a wealth of
information on the various combustion products of various flammable
substances, too many to list here.
Like many science projects, they sound simple but they grow in
complexity when planned out in detail, but that is OK because that is how
MOST SCIENCE WORKS -- EASY QUESTIONS, HARD ANSWERS.
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Update: June 2012