Why Does a Matchstick Burn at a Stroke?

Using the matchstick is one of the means to fire, its invention has made immortal contributions to human beings in fire-making. The matchstick brings a lot of convenience to our daily life, but do you know why they can burn at a stroke? What is the chemical principle?


As we all know, the matchstick consists of three parts: matchstick head, matchstick body, and matchstick box.


1. Matchstick head: The matchstick head is mainly composed of potassium chlorate (KCIO3), manganese dioxide (MnO2), sulfur (S), glass powder, glue, and other auxiliary materials.


2. Matchstick body: The matchstick body is made of pine strips soaked in ammonium phosphate, (which can help make the embers less likely to fall when the matchstick burns and thus after burning, there is still a relatively complete burnt stick). And the end of the matchstick head is coated with a small amount of paraffin wax.


3. Matchstick box: The friction layer on both sides of the matchstick box is mainly painted by red phosphorus (P), antimony trisulfide (Sb2S3), glass powder and glue, etc.


The main process of the matchstick being lighted and burning is as follows:

(1) When the matchstick head is struck on the matchstick box, the heat generated causes the phosphorus to burn;

(2) The heat released by the combustion of the phosphorus causes the potassium chlorate to decompose;

(3) Oxygen released by the decomposition of the potassium chlorate reacts with the sulfur;

(4) The heat released by the sulfur and oxygen reaction ignites the paraffin, which eventually causes the matchstick to catch fire.


In recent years, due to the development of modern tools, many people choose to use lighters and gradually eliminate the matchstick, resulting in the fact that production and sales of the matchstick have been reduced. But because of its advantages of being cheap and easy to carry, the matchstick is still favored by some people. Perhaps in the near future, the matchstick will fulfill its historical mission as the fire pricker and flint do. But as the continuation of man's first great victory over nature, it will always be in our living space, going through history and on and on.