Question

Why does firewood crackle when it is thrown in a fire?

Asked by: Susannah

Answer

If you have ever "distilled wood", you already know the answer to this question.

Solids and liquids do not burn. First they vaporize to a gas, then the gas burns. When wood is burned, the wood itself vaporizes. Much of this vapor is gaseous wood alcohol and water/steam. If too much vapor is trapped inside the wood, it will exert pressure and cause the wood to pop which causes the crackle.

"Distilling Wood" can be done by heating wood chips in a test tube and condensing the effluent vapor. This produces water, wood alcohol and activated charcoal.

Answered by: Christopher Ingram, B.S., Independent thinker

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Science Quote

'Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature, it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves.'

Werner Heisenberg
(1901-1976)
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