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Flame becomes larger with water mist

  1. May 31, 2009 #1
    When I hold a lighter up in the air with the flame lit, and spray water mist above the flame, I can get the flame to "enhance" and produce a bright flickering orange color above the original flame.

    The water mist has to be sprayed at a certain distance so that it does not put the flame out entirely. Enough mist has to hit the flame though, otherwise the effect will not occur. However I managed to do it within a few seconds of randomly thinking up this experiment, so it is not that hard.

    My first thought was that maybe my spray bottle had some contaminants in it that were flammable. So I washed it out a few times. I tried again and got the same effect. Washed the bottle out some more, and the same effect occurred regardless.

    My second thought was that somehow the flame was attracting more oxygen from the air, or maybe the dissolved oxygen in the water was escaping. But that I doubt could have such an obvious effect on a flame.

    When I blow on the flame with air from my lungs, the flame just moves, and does not produce an extra orange flickering shell around the flame.

    I was trying this experiment because I thought about lightening, clouds, and charges, I just thought I would try lighting a cloud on fire, playing with a lighter flames, sparks, etc. I assumed that nothing interesting would happen, since the cloud should put out the fire - not enhance it. Plus, buying a lighter and a spray bottle isn't something that would win a nobel prize anyway.

    Any ideas what causes this effect? I am still cleaning out my spray bottle in case there are contaminants :-)
    Last edited: May 31, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2009 #2
    Found the answer to this by experimenting at 4:35AM.

    Originally in the flame without any mist being sprayed, there was an extremely light colored blue shell surrounding the entire flame. This is easy to miss since it is so light colored and nearly invisible. Nearly is the key. There is an almost separate layer of hot spot above and around the main part of the flame. It is a different temperature range and very hard to see. Typical pictures of flames show the hot spots of the flame to be only in the center and they failed to show us that there is actually a hot spot on the outer edge of the flame.

    As water is sprayed on this hard to see purple/blue "hot spot" above and around the flame, that area then becomes orange in color. Orange is much easier to see than the original hot color it was. The water is cooling that hot spot.

    The effect cannot easily be seen (or at all) using a wood match. A butane flame from a lighter will show it.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2009
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