A Chemists Guide to Making Fire

Growing up with an Industrial Chemist


I decided to email my Dad a couple of years ago to ask:

“which chemicals could start a fire?”

For example could glycerine and potassium permanganate work – an article I had read online suggested so?   This was his reply…

“Hi Di,

this is just a quick response to your email.
Potassium permanganate, glycerine and water . Add a few drops of glycerine to few crystals of potassium permanganate. accelerate the reaction by adding a couple of drops of water.
Or instant fire with potassium permanganate with antifreeze (that you might have in your car along with petrol to keep it going).
Acetone, sulphuric acid and potassium permanganate. Soak a tissue with acetone. Draw sulphuric acid into a glass pipette, dip the pipette into the permanganate to coat with a few crystals. Dispense the sulphuric acid on to the tissue. It should catch fire. (Where would you get sulphuric acid?)
Sodium Chlorate, sugar and sulphuric acid. Mix a small amount of sodium chlorate and sugar initiate the reaction by adding a few drops of acid. (Where would you get sulphuric acid?)
Ammonium Nitrate powder, finely ground zinc powder and hydrochloric acid. Mix together a small amount of ammonium nitrate and zinc powder initiate the reaction by adding a few drops of hydrochloric acid. (Where would you get the hydrochloric acid?)
9V battery – touch both poles to super fine steel wool it will catch fire and burn tinder, wool fibres and feathers etc. (Sounds good to me)
Boy scouts have tried sunshine and a magnifying glass but it might work for girls too. Ha ha!
Love dad.
PS please excuse my sense of humour”


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The above experiments should keep me going for quite a while!  Upon research I have found ammonium nitrate can be found as fertiliser and sodium chlorate is weedkiller but whether these products are pure enough to use in the above combinations or are mixed with other ingredients I will have to read more.  I will also try to create an info graph illustrating the above combinations at a glance.  Firstly though is my promise to myself this year –  I need to learn to make fire with a hand-drill (spinning a stick on a hearth).  I will post about this method next.  If anyone has tried the above methods do let us know how it turned out and any tips for successful fire-starting with chemicals?  Blue Skies, Di x