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June 17 2011 6 17 /06 /June /2011 15:03

Warning: Many metal oxide fumes and other oxides are harmful for inhalation. Do not burn yourself on the hot materials. Arsenic, selenium, lead, and tellurium are quite toxic.


You will need:

One or more of these: lead powder, bismuth powder, tellurium powder, selenium powder, antimony powder, arsenic small piece, titanium powder, magnesium ribbon, lithium piece, zinc small piece, copper powder, molybdenum, tungsten, sulfur

Source of heat


Many elements burn or oxidize in air when heated. This produces a colored flame, which may be the same or different from the flame seen in a flame test.


Lead powder burns with a grayish flame, making highly toxic reddish smoke of lead(II,IV) oxide. The smoke is not visible in this picture.




Bismuth burns in air with a blue flame, making yellowish smoke of bismuth(III) oxide.


Tellurium burns in air with a green-blue flame, making white smoke of tellurium(IV) oxide. If the smoke is heated enough, it melts to a red liquid.


Selenium burns in air to make variously colored (yellowish white, reddish white, or white) smoke of selenium(IV) oxide. It has a garlicky odor and is highly toxic.


Antimony burns in air to make white fumes of antimony(III) oxide. It dissolves slightly in water.


Arsenic burns in air with a pale lavender-colored flame to make white fumes of arsenic(III) oxide, which smells like garlic and is very toxic.


Titanium burns in air to make titanium(IV) oxide and titanium nitride. It burns nitrogen as well as oxygen.


Magnesium burns in air with a blindingly bright white flame to make white fumes of magnesium oxide. If oxygen is limited, magnesium nitride is formed.


Lithium burns in air with a reddish-white flame to make white lithium oxide.




Zinc burns in air with a blue-green flame to make white zinc oxide, which is yellowish when hot.




Copper powder oxidizes without a flame in air to make either red copper(I) oxide or black copper(II) oxide.


Molybdenum burns to make white or slightly bluish molybdenum(VI) oxide.


Tungsten burns when heated to make yellow-green tungsten(VI) oxide.


Sulfur burns when heated with a blue flame to make gaseous sulfur(IV) oxide.


Compare the metallic character of the element with the melting point of the oxide. The more nonmetallic an element is, the lower the oxide's melting point is. The alkali metals are an exception. The higher oxidation state an oxide is in, the lower the melting point for metals and semimetals and the higher the melting point for nonmetals. Try to find other examples of periodicity as well. Don't breathe the fumes!

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