Lighting a Match

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The schlieren optical technique is ideal for visualizing differences in fluid density and is an important tool for revealing flows humans cannot see with their naked eyes. In this high speed video, a professor lights a match. The initial strike generates friction and heat sufficient to convert some of the red phosphorus in the match head to its more volatile white phosphorus form. We see this in the schlieren as the cloud-like burst in the first several seconds. The heat from the phosphorus combustion ignites the sulfur fuel and potassium chlorate oxidizer in the match head to create a more sustained flame. During this period, wavy, smoke-like whorls of hot air rise from around the flame as buoyancy takes over. The upward movement of hot air draws in cooler air from the surroundings, providing the flame with an ongoing source of oxygen and allowing it to grow.  (Video credit: RMIT University)

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