Thursday, 12 July 2012

Heating magnesium experiment

Heating magnesium
If you fancy trying something fun you might want to try burning a cm or two of magnesium ribbon.  It takes a little while before it takes off but when it sparks it burns a very bright white light.

(warning: don't look directly at the white light though, it can cause damage to the eyes)


Why does this happen? 
The reaction is extremely exothermic reaction (an exothermic reaction is a chemical reaction accompanied by the evolution of heat) and the product magnesium oxide is heated to very high temperatures causing it to glow white-hot.  It is a very unusual metal in that it doesn’t melt!

Magnesium burnt in air it creates magnesium oxide. This is the formula: 2Mg + O2 ---> 2MgO At the same time, magnesium nitrate is formed: 3Mg + N2 --> Mg3N2

Heating Aluminium
Also you could try heating a piece of aluminium.  What happens to it?  Well, like magnesium it doesn’t appear to melt either, it does change though and goes black and more brittle and the effect isn’t as bright or, in my opinion, exciting.   It becomes aluminium oxide.

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