|Please help me and explain briefly on the burning
of a candle, what is the chemical reaction involved?|
|Question Date: 2014-08-26|
So many candles are made from “paraffin wax” which
has the chemical formula
C25H52. When paraffin comes
into contact with oxygen with enough energy, it
burns completely and becomes water and carbon
dioxide. The fire is a result of this reaction
happening very quickly and is known as combustion.
The fire is so hot that the wax actually turns
from a solid to a vapor. It is the wax vapor that
is actually participating in the chemical
A candle is made of wax, which is made of
hydrocarbons. This means that it's composed of
compounds with a carbon backbone and hydrogen
atoms that dangle off of the backbone. Other
examples of hydrocarbons are gasoline, propane,
and even things like paper and plant matter are
largely composed of hydrocarbon type compounds.
The chemical reaction involved in burning is the
oxidation of these hydrocarbons. In an ideal
reaction, the reactants are the hydrocarbon and
oxygen and the products are water, carbon dioxide
and energy (in the form of light and heat).
In reality, burning is not totally ideal and there
are additionally side reactions and secondary
products like nitrogen oxides (from reactions with
air) and partially oxidized hydrocarbons (like
The candle is made of wax, which is a combination
of different kinds of hydrocarbons (i.e. CxHy,
where y = 2x + 2). x and y are large enough that
the mixture is solid at room temperature; I don't
know what numbers this requires, but I'd guess x
would be at least 12 or so (since x=8, a.k.a.
octane, is liquid at room temperature).
The reaction combines atmospheric oxygen with
the hydrocarbons to create carbon dioxide and
water just the same way as burning any other
hydrocarbon (e.g. for methane, 2O2 +
CH4 -> CO2 + 2H2O).
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