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Safety match activation energy

  1. Aug 17, 2014 #1
    I saw a YouTube video where someone took nichrome wire and a high voltage source and managed to light a whole series of matches.

    I got me curious so I ran some numbers on how much wattage could be produced for a given length of nichrome wire and a given voltage. And assuming time is no issues you could leave said power source connected to the wire for as long as possible and in theory get a very high amount of joules of energy transfer, but exactly how much energy is required to ignite a match, couldn't find anything online anywhere with specific numbers.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2014 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    You wouldn't, it depends on the match. These are not precision devices.

    Take a close look at the chemistry of a safelty match.

    ... look up the reactions involved as see which has the lowest activation energy.
    You know the energy released by white phosphor burning in air is enough to start the match going.
    You could look that up. But I suspect what you want to find is the activation energy for burning sulphur in air, and finding out how much sulphur is in the match, for a ball-park figure.
  4. Aug 18, 2014 #3


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    Interesting. Google suggests that red phosphorus turns into white phosphorous at around 250c so heating a small part of a match head to that temperature would appear to be enough to trigger a runaway reaction (I think). So you may not need to heat the whole mass of the match head?
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