Make your own firework for Guy Fawke's Night!

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Make a soda-snake firework using simple ingredients (baking soda, icing sugar, alcohol hand rub and sand).


Heatproof mat
Icing sugar
Bicarb of soda
Isopropyl alcohol (very cheap and available online or at the pharmacist)


Follow the simple instructions from the Science Museum website

What is going on?

Your carbon sugar snake is the product of three chemical reactions that are all dependent on heat.

The first of these reactions occurs when sugar combusts (burns) in the presence of oxygen. This produces carbon dioxide gas and water vapor (also a gas), which pushes more of the sugar/baking soda mixture upwards. Some of this additional sugar heats up but doesn’t have access to any oxygen, so instead of burning, it undergoes thermal decomposition, producing solid carbon and more water vapor. This solid carbon now gives the snake some shape, and also gives the snake its black color. Lastly, the baking soda also decomposes in the heat, producing solid sodium carbonate, and carbon dioxide gas and water vapor. Altogether, these three reactions produce both the solid components of the snake (carbon and sodium carbonate) and hot gases (CO2 and water vapor) that expand and inflate the snake up and out of the sand bowl.

The sand in this experiment doesn’t chemically react with anything in the growing snake. Instead, it evenly distributes the heat from the burning lighter fluid to the sugar and the baking soda, ensuring a slow, steady burn and the growth of a long carbon sugar snake.


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  • guy fawkes
  • science
  • science experiments
  • science, reactions

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