Slow Motion Video Explains the Chemistry of Matches

Andrew LaSane

Striking a wooden match to create a fire takes tenths of a second, but there is a lot of chemistry packed into that short period of time. The above video from the Reaction YouTube channel slows the process down and explains all of the factors that contribute to the chemical reaction over a span of about two minutes.

According to the narrator, the head of a match is covered in a mixture of chemicals that includes potassium chlorate, antimony trisulfide, and ammonium phosphate—which act as fuel, a chemical to make the fuel burn, and a smoke reducer, respectively. It's also coated with wax, to help the flame move, and glue, to hold the ingredients together.

When the match is struck along the box, powdered glass and red phosphorous help trigger a reaction. "Heat from this friction converts the red phosphorus into white phosphorus," the narrator says. "White phosphorus is extremely volatile and reacts with oxygen in the air, causing it to ignite."

Watch the clip above to learn more.

Banner image via Reaction on YouTube

[h/t Gizmodo]