Experiments You Can Do at Home - But Probably Shouldn't

Chapter 2
Doomsday DIY » Making a Perfect Match

Making a Perfect Match

Tame one of the most unstable substances on Earth-phosphorus-with a little white glue to make your own strike-anywhere matches. Matches are edgy. They live on a fine line between sitting harmlessly in a box and blowing up in your face. Among the most dangerous classes of chemicals are those that catch fire simply by shock or friction.

Yet matches are supposed to do exactly that. So modern matches cleverly require two steps before they will light: Chemicals in an igniter (either the tip of a strike-anywhere match or the striking surface of a safety match) must be mixed with fuel in the match head, and the igniter must be raised above a critical temperature by the heat generated through the friction of striking it.

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