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Picture of Blue Flaming Pinecones
Are you a pyromaniac? Do you enjoy setting things on fire, yet feel artistically confined by the boring yellow color of ordinary flames? Thanks to the marvels of modern science you can easily diversify your palette. By marinating pinecones in the right chemicals you can make them burn blue, green, all the colors of the rainbow. So grab your blowtorch and let's start cooking!

Step 1: Get some metal salts

Picture of get some metal salts
You can change the color of fire by adding metal salts to a burning object. The easiest way to accomplish this is to make a solution of the metal salt in water or alcohol, marinate whatever you want to burn, then let it dry. Pinecones are a good medium because they have a lot of surface area and act as a sponge. But you can use sawdust, twigs, you name it.

Different metals will burn different colors. Your homework assignment is to provide a detailed explanation why this occurs, based on first principals of quantum chemistry. For now please accept the following conversion chart:

blue = copper chloride (CuCl2)
green = copper sulfate (CuSO4)
red = strontium chloride (SrCl2)
purple = potassium sulfate (K2SO4)
white = magnesium sulfate (MgSO4)

In my experience copper chloride works the best by far, giving bright blue flaming pinecones that are sure to impress even the most discerning pyromaniac. The green and red from CuSO4 and SrCl2 are also attractive. Magnesium sulfate (white) and potassium sulfate (purple) didn't do much of anything to the color of the fire for me, so I'd say skip those two. My sources tell me there are other combinations you can try.

Of all the chemicals listed above, only MgSO4 can be purchased at the drugstore (in the form of epsom salts; magnesium sulfate heptahydrate). For the rest you'll have to do a little hunting. Strontium salts are commonly found in road flares, for example. Suppliers for pyrotechnics, photography and rocketry are also a good source. Google product search turns up a surprising number of results for copper chloride. You may find these salts in their anhydrous or hydrated forms, which doesn't matter since you're going to dissolve them in water anyway.

Note that all of these things are bad for you if ingested, so be careful to wash your hands after handling, and try not to spill the CuSO4 in your coffee. Gloves might be smart.
Venemot4 years ago
We did this stuff in chemistry class. We used a platinum wire loop to scoop up a bit of soaked salt and held it above a flame. We got a beautiful purple since there was nothing else to burn with it. You could also do this by sprinkling the salt directly over a fire.
ol9879868 years ago
needs more dynamite :)
knektek9 years ago
add more oxygerns to help it burn
flammable10 years ago
hey guys for those of you living in australia there's a fantastic website called auschems unfortunately they only ship in australia but there good quality at a reasonable price
Shadowfury10 years ago
Well... All I can say is that it hurts. A lot. And at higher purities it melts your skin.
ye it soaks into your skin hits your bone and rotts it from the inside out
Rocoti10 years ago
The flames are beautiful, the blue being the most! I would love to know how I could get my hands on some of the Copper Chloride. Does anyone know where it could be purchased?
Berkin Rocoti10 years ago
This place sells a lot of different chemicals, including copper chloride. $9.00 for 4 ounces isn't too bad...
Denero10 years ago
Do you need a blowtorch or can you just throw them in a fire>?
I_am_Canadian10 years ago
Which one of those are epsom salts?
Magnesium Sulfate.
acecombat11 years ago
You can buy Copper Suplhate (CuSO4) from Bunnings in the fertiliser section (It's in a pringles style tube) but not sure about the rest, I wouldn't mind knowing where to get some Copper Chloride (CuCl2) though!
Go buy some Hydrochloric acid, then put some copper wire in it and let it soak for a few days, until the solution turns green and all the copper is gone. Then heat it up to boil off the acid (OUTSIDE) and wait for it to crystallize.
fwjs2811 years ago
*cough* sugar+gas=napalm
*snezze* cotton+gas=napalm
*achooo* mix gas with anything to thicken=napalm
Shadowfury fwjs2810 years ago
No, not really. Cotton wouldn't stick very well. Use either motor oil (traditional) or styrofoam (cheap).
schimmi fwjs2811 years ago
dissolve styrofoam in gasoline, then thicken it with something, and you have better napalm just plain gas isn't very good napalm.
You can also create napalm with human blood, just human blood
szechuan5310 years ago
can some sciencey person tell me how to put my very fine magnesium powder into liquid suspension? i am working on "natures flashbangs"
What kind of liquid?
it is not a liquid , but try vaseline
microman17112 years ago
even tho the red turned yello that is pretty awsome.. also the blue is kool aswell
Hey man, I don't know how much pyro you do, but those are commonly used in artillery shells to make the stars burn different colors.... well not sure about magnesium sulfate... never played with that much. Anyway, the point of this reply is.....

If you REALLY want your "pine cones" to burn cool, mix a solution of Potassium Nitrate and Refined sugar into alcohol and then dissolve your metal salts into that. The result will be similar to self-lighting charcoal... but with king of a glitter effect....

Potassium Nitrate (KNO3) is also known as Saltpeter, and can be commonly found in 95-98% pure form in "Stump-out" and other forms of stump rot products.

The aprox mix ratio would be in the ball park of - 60% KNO3 + 40%

IT IS AN OXIDIZER... so do not store it mixed with or in combination with metals or metal salts for any length of time (couple days) because theoretically, being an oxidizer, it can spontaneously combust if oxidation develops enough residual heat.... never actually seen it happen... but all the same...

Have fun with that... BOXHARD
Let me also add that KNO3 and sugar make pretty good rocket fuel. It works better when you cook it, almost like making candy, and pour it into a tube then fit it with a nozle and let it cool. Clay makes a good nozle too by the way.... I guess I should do an Instructable about rockets or basic pyrotechnics sometime? Tell me what you think... which ever there is more request for I will do... If anyone tries cooking the mixture above... be very careful and use some common sense.... ALLWAYS, ALLWAYS, ALLWAYS!!!!!! - eye protection. And be sure to cook it on as low as your ELECTRIC stove can go...
What ratio do you use to make fuel out of saltpeter and sugar? because i've heard a lot of different things about that. First of all, doesn't saltpeter and sugar by themselves just make a smoke bomb? and to make fuel, dont you need a third ingredient, like sulfur or charcoal powder or sumthing? Or is that just to make gunpowder?
It all depends upon the type of rocket and nozzle shape. If you have a heavy rocket and need a lot of thrust, you need a wider nozzle and therefore a faster burning mixture... similarly if you have a lighter rocket, you want a smaller nozzle with a slower burn mix in order to achieve maximum climb height. So to answer you question, you are just gonna have to play around with it. The basic ratio for the most effecient burn is 60% KNO3 40% Sugar. As for a third ingredient, if this mixture burns to fast (adjust your nozzle first) but if you must slow it down charcoal would work. Not much will speed it up though. Sulfer is not a good idea with KNO3 and Sugar, makes it burn slower and it stinks. If you need a faster burning mixture, go with black powder... start by adding about 20% extra charcoal (airfloat charcoal, made from willow branches leaves a nice fluffy smoke behind) and keep adding more charcoal until your rockets no longer blow up mid-flight. lol And geez... as i'm writing this I see the link below... try that. Thishis in no way directed at you Lighterkid you sound like you are genuine, i'm just venting... ...But I need to add... Most of my knowledge on pyro / explosives has been hands on... there is no better way to answer a question than just trying it. Freak'n try it. I welcome the questions, but I get the sense sometimes that a large majority of these questions are asked by people who are never actualy gonna try this stuff. If your just curious... GOOGLE IT.. if you start experimenting and run into problems or you hit a wall... Please ask me... I will help you any any way possible - I have hit those problems before and did the same thing and found the answers. But there is no point in me typing stuff over and over again when a simple visit to google will return 5,000 sights with the information right there waiting for you ~ ok, I'm done venting ~ Boxhard
arrite thanks. and also what kind of material should the rocket tube be made out of? i tried aluminum foil and it just melted and fused to the pavement. as for why im asking and not experimenting, i have a pretty low budget and cant afford to screw up and have to buy new stuff over and over. also, i live in sum paranoid old people town so i dont get to try this stuff too often, so when i do get a chance, i like it to work right.
Well, firstly and obviously don't use anything that might throw shrapnel in the event of your rocket blowing. Fight the urge to use pvc pipe... I had more than enough pvc pieces flying past my bast shield at high velocity that I can say with certainty... not good idea. Same goes for metal, etc... What I found to be the best, and pretty cheap, are heavy wall cardboard tubes. once you get up to about 1" tubes though the walls have to be pretty thick to hold in the pressure. Second you are going to need a good nozzle. You can either machine one out of metal or use bentonite clay packed very tightly into a nozzle. When I was doing that I had a brass and aluminum frame / mold that you combressed fuel and a clay nozzle into a carboard tube to make a finished rocket. I want to say I paid like 20 - 30 bucks for it... but that was about 15 years ago. The KNO3 and Sugar mixture burns at a pretty high temp and a lot of people underestimate it's power. I have had several pyro guys stare blankly after a "smoke bomb" went KABOOM after they said it couldnt be done with KNO3 and Sugar. Try a model / rocket hobby shop... you may find what ya need there. The electronic squibs come in real handy too but you can also make your own... Good luck, hope the old folks keep their heads down. lol ps. I lived in a suburban area like that when I was a kid but that didn't stop me... there were still holes (!HOLES!) in our once new concrete driveway when I moved out. lol
fireraisr BOXHARD10 years ago
a 60/40 mixture of saltpeter and sugar willl produce smoke bombs that have the appearance of caramels when cooked. That mixture is by weight. Just don't overcook or you house may look like its on fire :)
70/30 works as well, but burns faster.
look up r candy on youtube that might help
kibbler BOXHARD11 years ago
You seem like you know a lot about pyromaniacs. Make an instructable please!
BOXHARD kibbler11 years ago
I will!... trying to decide what would be a good project... I need to look a little more at what's on here so I don't repeat anyone though.... I think I might with one on making grocery store "Black Powder" for all you peeps that live in control freak countries...
dunnos BOXHARD11 years ago
yes please do that, my country doesn't even sell stump remover as a precausian(spelling?) please oh please tell us how to make blackpowder so our lives get interesting :P Dunnos
BOXHARD dunnos11 years ago
Wha? Where you live? I'm having second thoughts about all of this... being the good American country minded man that I am... I don't know about telling peeps how to blow up things... :)
dunnos BOXHARD11 years ago
i live in holland its almost freaky previously you sayd that saltpeter is an oxidizer i knew where you can get it and filter it but its frikkin expensive that way is it possible to use another oxidizer like Fe2O3? and if not is there a way to make rust spontaniously combust? that'd be cool then my last question: if i use a 12v adapter for electrolysis wont i short it out? im scared it will blow up in my face thanks in advance Dunnos
BOXHARD dunnos11 years ago
Sigh... Fe203 is not an oxidizer... it's an OXIDE! it is the result of an ozidizer (O2 or O3) reacting with Iron. ""then my last question: if i use a 12v adapter for electrolysis wont I short it out? im scared it will blow up in my face"" Huh? lol What are you talking about? What are you trying to do with electrolysis?
dunnos BOXHARD11 years ago
that actually still doesn't answer my question will i be able to replace potassium nitrate with like potassium permanganate? they are both oxidizers how's they ible going by the way?
BOXHARD dunnos11 years ago
Taken from Wikipedia... my fall back for information on compounds I don't use often... and just as accessable for you as me...

"Aqueous solutions of KMnO4 have been used together with T-Stoff (i.e. 80% hydrogen peroxide) as propellant for the rocket plane Messerschmitt Me 163. In this application, it was known as Z-Stoff. This combination of propellants is sometimes still used in torpedoes."

"KMnO4 is often included in survival kits along with polyols as a fire starter. For example, a mixture of potassium permanganate and glycerine or pulverized glucose ignites readily."

"Early photographers used it as a component of flash powder. It is now replaced with other oxidizers, due to the instability of permanganate mixtures."

"Solid KMnO4 is a strong oxidizer and in general it should be kept separated from oxidizable substances. Dilute aqueous solutions of KMnO4 are not dangerous. KMnO4 forms dangerous products upon contact with concentrated acids. "

"As an oxidizer, potassium permanganate stains the hand and clothing as it is reduced to MnO2. Clothing stains may be washed away using acetic acid. Skin stains, which are typically brown, disappear within 48 hours."

The long and the short of it... if you have some availbale, you could mix it with sugar and I suspect you would get a compound similar to the smoke bomb recipe calling for KNO3 and sugar. I have never played with this before though, so use extreme caution and always wear protective gear... GLASSES are always a must. and be sure to ignite it from a distance, ie canon fuse.

Also, given the molecular structure of it, KMnO4, I would start with a 50-50 wix with white sugar and try a few different ratios to see what burns most effectively. I don't think this wixture will "boom" but under pressure it may.

As wikipedia says, and me not being familiar with the composition, do not store it for any length of time. Sugar is readily oxidizable...

Let me know how it goes, if I don't hear anything back about it, I'll assume it killed you... and then I guess I'll have to go out and buy some to play with.

dunnos BOXHARD11 years ago
ok thank you, im goin to ask if i can do this in the chem lab they always like me if i dont have questions to much only this: KMnO4 is often included in survival kits along with polyols as a fire starter. For example, a mixture of potassium permanganate and glycerine or pulverized glucose ignites readily." if i mix it with sugar wont it explode after, like, a few seconds? cya then
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