F-Zero Match Factory
F-Zero Match Factory

Do You Know the Chemical Composition of Match Heads and the Phosphorus on the Sides of Match Boxes?

Matches, which were once known as a household necessity in foreign countries, are becoming smaller and less common in modern society as lamps and candles are usually replaced by various electric lights, which require switches to provide brightness similar to daytime lighting. Lighting devices have also been replaced by more convenient lighters. Matches are no longer a necessity in daily life, and only some hotels have delicate matches available. Matches can be divided into early friction matches (also known as sulfur phosphorus matches) and later safety matches, which have slight differences in their ignition principles. Of course, they both use the principle of friction heat.

Brief analysis of safety matches

  • The colored head safety matches are important parts of the match, which mainly consists of antimony trisulfide and potassium chlorate, manganese dioxide, and sulfur. It is the most important ignition part of the match.

  • The matchstick is made of soft poplar or pine wood and is fully soaked in paraffin wax and rosin at the front end to increase the ignition time of the match.

  • The paper used to ignite the matchstick on both sides of the matchbox is made of red phosphorus, antimony trisulfide, and glass powder. Red phosphorus has an ignition point of only 260℃ and is used as a primer to ignite the match head.

  • Combustion conditions: according to the principle that carbon dioxide does not support combustion, the assistance of a combustion agent (usually oxygen), an ignition temperature that reaches the flashpoint, and a combustible material are necessary. As long as one of these three conditions is damaged, the fire can be extinguished.

The main components of the friction colored head safety matches are potassium chlorate and tetraphosphorus trisulfide

This match does not require a special phosphorus surface. As long as it is scratched on a rough surface, the heat generated by friction is enough to cause a chemical reaction and fire with these two substances. We can still see this scene in some movies. When we scratch a match on the sole of a shoe or anywhere else, the match will ignite. But because it is too easy to ignite, it is also unsafe.

When using it, the heat generated by friction is generally not enough to ignite the colored head safety matches. When you wipe the phosphorus layer on the side of the matchbox lightly, the small amount of heat generated by friction is enough to cause sparks on the phosphorus surface. The heat generated by the spark reacts with potassium chlorate (reacts faster with manganese dioxide) and releases more heat energy, igniting sulfur and the heat generated by sulfur combustion is enough to ignite the wooden stick of the match.

Modern matches mainly contain potassium chlorate, manganese dioxide, sulfur, and glass powder. A small amount of paraffin wax is coated on the matchstick. The phosphorus surface on both sides of the matchbox is made of a mixture of red phosphorus and glass powder. The principles of low-temperature flammable red phosphorus, potassium chlorate exothermic oxidation, manganese dioxide catalysis, and sulfur combustion are employed. Currently, ordinary matches can be in the form of wooden stick matches, wax paper stick matches, and book-type matches according to their package shape and raw materials. In addition to ordinary matches, there are windproof and waterproof matches, high-temperature matches, signal matches, multiple burning matches, light-sensitive matches, etc. However, the basic principles are the same.

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