The Magnesium Fire Starter
Publication No. 14139
Create a spark using this reliable magnesium fire starter.
Magnesium fire starter*
*Materials included in kit.
Wear safety goggles or glasses. Keep the magnesium block away from active burning fires. Perform demonstrations on a flame-resistant board. Please review current Safety Data Sheets for additional safety, handling and disposal information.
Please consult your current Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual for general guidelines and specific procedures, and review all federal, state and local regulations that may apply, before proceeding. Magnesium oxide produced in this experiment can be disposed of in the trash according to Flinn Suggested Disposal Method #26a.
Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)†
Science & Engineering PracticesObtaining, evaluation, and communicating information
Planning and carrying out investigations
Asking questions and defining problems
Disciplinary Core IdeasMS-PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
HS-PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
Crosscutting ConceptsCause and effect
Energy and matter
MS-PS1-1. Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
The magnesium fire starter, available in camping supply stores, is a novel application of a chemical element for camping or wilderness survival. The device consists of a block of magnesium measuring 7.5 cm x 2.5 cm x 0.9 cm with a circular rod of flint embedded in one side. In camping applications, a knife is used to scrape magnesium shavings from the block. The shavings are collected into a pile next to, or on top of some paper, dry leaves, small twigs, or other flammable material. The magnesium fire starter is turned with the flint sparking insert facing the pile of magnesium shavings and the knife is rapidly scraped down the flint rod. The sparks produced, as the steel from the knife strikes the flint rod, will ignite the magnesium shavings which burn with a bright white flame, which, in turn, will ignite the materials placed near it.
2Mg + O2 → 2MgOThe heat of combustion of magnesium is 24.7 kJ/g.
Special thanks to David A. Katz, retired, Wilmington, DE, for providing us with this activity.