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Can I safely change the color of the flames in my fireplace?

  1. Sep 23, 2012 #1
    I know fireworks use different chemicals to get different colors. This probably means combustion/oxidation of the various compounds, resulting in vapor phase gases. With fireworks, this might not be a problem, but if I have an indoor fireplace, are there any chemicals I can safely add in order to change the color?

    I think it would be awesome to have rainbow flames.

    I know different woods burn different colors, but finding wood is difficult. I can, however, attain chemicals.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2012 #2

    chemisttree

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    You can do anything but you probably shouldn't. Pretty colors are achieved by adding metal salts to your flame. Most of the pretty colors are from metals that are toxic but some aren't too bad.

    Calcium - red (weak)
    Boron - green (strong)
    Potassium - violet (weak)
    Sodium - yellow (very strong)
    Zinc - turquoise (weak)

    If you are burning wood, keep in mind that soot produces a very intense yellow-orange color from it's blackbody radiation that overwhelms the relatively weak emission from these metals. Hot blue flames are best to visualize colors of this type but that type of flame isn't usually the type you produce in your fireplace. Potassium, calcium, sodium and zinc are already present in wood so if you can't see them already, adding more won't likely help you. Also keep in mind that whatever you add that produces color eventually becomes a finely divided aerosol (ash) that will contaminate your fireplace ashes, chimney, environment and perhaps your indoor air. You run the risk of inhaling finely divided metals and coating everything in your home with them.

    I wouldn't try it. Too much risk IMO.
     
  4. Sep 25, 2012 #3

    NascentOxygen

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    I have noticed that no matter how gently I spoon some oxygen bleach powder into a bucket of water in the kitchen, in short time the blue flame of the gas stove 2 metres away glows sparkling bright orange showing that bleach powder has become airborne. (sodium perborate)

    When I was a kid I found that the paper wrapper on a particular brand of spearmint chewing gum when thrown into the open fire burnt with a satisfyingly green flame. Some printing on the paper was green; I have no idea what that ink could have contained.
     
  5. Sep 25, 2012 #4
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2012
  6. Sep 26, 2012 #5
    That sounds awesome, and I'll search for it at some local stores.

    Any idea on how it would work? All I can think of would be using metals, and that of course is not really safe for our indoor fireplace...
     
  7. Sep 26, 2012 #6

    AGNuke

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  8. Sep 26, 2012 #7
  9. Sep 26, 2012 #8

    AGNuke

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    I assume you have a proper chimney ventilation system. Because the commercial fire colorant are the same thing. And I don't believe that they are much toxic compared to heavy metals, if very very small amount of oxides are inhaled.
     
  10. Sep 27, 2012 #9

    chemisttree

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    The real problem is that most of the metals in the product don't go anywhere. They remain in your fireplace ashes. You absolutely cannot clean your fireplace without spreading that stuff around. Also, the interior of the chimney and the cooler parts of the fireplace will become heavily contaminated. Of course you wouldn't want to inhale any gases or aerosols from the fireplace that might waft into the room either.

    Contamination like this in the environment eventually goes away but in the protected environment of the home, it will remain until actively removed by scrubbing, carpet replacement, painting etc... This type of exposure is nearly impossible to quantify unless you are actively looking for it. And who does that?
     
  11. Sep 27, 2012 #10

    chemisttree

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    It's likely that the green came from the talc (magnesium silicate) used to dust the stick of gum. Magnesium burns with a green flame.
     
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