A candle consists of three main parts: the fuel source (wax), the wick, and the flame. When you light a candle, the heat from the flame melts the wax near the wick. This liquid wax is drawn up into the wick, which is like a straw that soaks up the liquid.
As the liquid wax reaches the flame, it turns into a gas and mixes with the oxygen in the air. This mixture of fuel vapor and oxygen is highly flammable. When you light the mixture, it undergoes a chemical reaction called combustion.
During combustion, the fuel vapor and oxygen react and release heat and light. The heat further melts more wax, and the process continues as long as there is enough fuel and oxygen.
The flame you see is the result of the combustion process. The heat and light are produced as the fuel vapor and oxygen molecules break apart and recombine in a chemical reaction.
As the wax continues to burn, it produces carbon dioxide and water vapor, along with some soot and other gases. These byproducts are released into the air as the candle burns.
So, in summary, a candle burns by melting the wax, drawing it up the wick, vaporizing the fuel, combining it with oxygen, and igniting it to create a flame that produces heat and light.
If you’re looking for a more scientific breakdown of how candles operate, then here you go… candles work on the principles of combustion, which is a chemical reaction between a fuel source and oxygen that releases heat and light. Here’s a breakdown of the science behind a candle:
- Fuel Source: The main component of a candle’s fuel is usually wax, which is commonly made from natural substances like beeswax or plant-based materials such as soy or paraffin. Wax is a hydrocarbon, which means it consists of carbon and hydrogen atoms.
- Wick: A candle has a wick running through its center, usually made of cotton. The wick serves as a capillary, drawing liquid fuel (molten wax) upward through the wick via a process called capillary action. The wick also provides a surface for the fuel to vaporize and burn.
- Combustion: When the flame of a candle is lit, the heat of the flame melts the wax near the wick. This liquid wax is drawn up into the wick, and as it reaches the flame, it vaporizes into a mixture of vaporized hydrocarbons and gases.
- Oxygen Supply: Oxygen is necessary for combustion to occur. It is present in the air surrounding the candle. As the vaporized fuel rises from the wick, it combines with oxygen from the air to create a steady supply of fuel for the flame.
- Heat: The flame of the candle provides the heat required to sustain the combustion process. The heat vaporizes more wax, allowing the process to continue.
- Light: The light emitted by a candle is a result of incandescence. As the hydrocarbon molecules in the vaporized fuel break apart and recombine during combustion, they release energy in the form of heat and light.
- Products of Combustion: The combustion process of a candle produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O) as byproducts, along with trace amounts of other gases and soot. The release of these byproducts into the air contributes to the characteristic scent and smoke associated with burning candles.
It’s important to note that candles should be used with caution and in a safe manner, as an open flame can pose a fire hazard.
So, now you know the magic behind your candle!