How to Light Money or Your Hand on Fire Without It Burning
Hands on Fire Trick
Playing With Fire
Have you ever wanted to play with fire without those pesky burn marks? With this experiment, you can light money or your hand on fire without it burning.
This is a neat and relatively safe trick for all the pyromaniacs out there. It is fairly easy to do and it is interesting for kids or adults.
Gather your materials, practice your best evil scientist laugh, and put on a show with fire.
This experiment can be very dangerous. Be very careful not to burn yourself or anything else. Kids should not try this trick without adult supervision. Follow all safety precautions when doing this. Have a fire extinguisher handy. Remember: Stop, Drop, and Roll if you do catch fire.
Burning Money Experiment
- Lighter or matches
- 2 Containers
- Tongs (preferably metal)
- Salt (optional)
First, you will need a solution of water and alcohol. The preferred kind is ethyl alcohol. Many drugstores carry it. It is usually in a container similar to rubbing alcohol and is in the same section of the store. Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol will also work for the experiment.
Mix the alcohol and the water together into a mixture that 50% is alcohol and 50% water. Caution: the bottle of alcohol may already contain water. Most bottles of alcohol contain 70% alcohol and 30% water. The best way to get the correct mixture is to use a measuring cup. If the bottle is 70/30, pour 10 ounces straight from the bottle into the measuring cup. Then add 4 ounces of plain water. The mixture will then be 7 parts alcohol, 7 parts water, or 50/50. If the alcohol you have is not a 70/30 mixture, just keep in mind how much water is already added to the bottle (90/10 - Use 10 ounces from the bottle and then add 8 ounces of regular water).
Salt can be added to the mixture to make the flame more visible. A few shakes of salt in the solution is plenty.
Now pour normal water into the other container. Keep it close to the experiment in case something begins to burn.
Light the candle, but make sure it is away from the solution. The solution could catch fire as well, so keep it away from the fire. Before using real money, test a piece of scrap paper to make sure the mixture is right. Dip the paper in the alcohol/water solution making sure it is thoroughly soaked. Holding the paper with the tongs, hold the paper over the candle until it lights on fire.
Be careful for drips, especially while the paper is over the candle. Hold the paper still. Waving it around can put the fire out, or it could cause the fire to spread if it splashes or brushes against something. If the mixture is correct, the water will insulate the paper and prevent it from burning along with the alcohol. The flame will likely be a bluish color. If the paper begins to actually burn, quickly drop it into the container of normal water. If that’s the case, recheck the mixture.
If the paper lit on fire without burning, try the experiment with real money. The process is the same as with the paper. Soak it in the solution. Using the tongs, hold the money over the candle until the alcohol catches fire. If it begins to actually burn, quickly place it in the water container. If your mixture is right, though, the alcohol should burn on the surface while the water keeps the actual money from burning.
The alcohol will eventually burn off on its own, or you can dip it into the normal water to put the fire out.
Magic Trick Using Simple ScienceClick thumbnail to view full-size
Gloves for Safety
Now comes the awesome part. The same process can be used to light your hand on fire. It works best if you use rubber gloves, but you can use your bare hand as well.
This part is also more dangerous, so make sure you don’t have on baggy clothes or long sleeves that could potentially catch fire. Test paper before using your hand to ensure the alcohol and water are at the correct percentage.
Follow the same procedure as with the paper and the money. Put on the rubber gloves and dip your hands in the solution getting them as wet as possible. Then hold your hands over the flame until your hands catch fire.
The fire will begin to get hot on your hands. Make sure there is a container of normal water nearby so that you can put the fire out if it gets too hot. You can also wave your hands up and down quickly to put out the flames.
Now you can hold fire in your hands and amaze your friends.
Ever Wanted to Hold Fire in Your Hands?Click thumbnail to view full-size
Why It Works
The trick with this experiment is all about science, not magic. Alcohol has a high vapor pressure, so the vapor is concentrated above the liquid on the surface of the object. The alcohol burns, not the water or the object that has been soaked.
Alcohol also burns at a low relative temperature, which is not high enough to evaporate the water. Thus, the water acts as insulation on the object preventing it from catching on fire.
You may have noticed that the paper has a tendency to burn faster than the money when all of the alcohol has burnt away. This is because money is made of cottony material and does not burn as easily as paper does.
Adding salt in the experiment serves two functions. First, it alters the color of the flame making it more visible. Alcohol by itself burns a faint, light blue color. The salt also causes the alcohol and the water to separate in the mixture adding more protection for the object.
If you want to take pictures of the experiment, they will show up best at night or in a darkened room. Keep the flash off. The color of the flame won't show up with flash.
Using basic science principles, you can appear to be a magician who can control fire.
© 2010 Candace Bacon