Some Uses of Fire

Look at our friends Paul and Monomer sitting around the campfire. Just as humans have done for eons (that's a really long time!), Paul and Monomer are using fire for beneficial purposes. Can you name at least three uses of fire that you see? When you've thought about it for a minute, click here to see our list.

Now that you've started to started to think about all the ways the humans can use fire for good, let's investigate some of the ways in which we benefit from burning things. Let's start with the our list of three things we saw Paul and Monomer using their fire for.

First, let's look at using fire for heat. Just like Paul and Monomer, many of us have felt the heat from a burning campfire. But where does the heat come from? The heat is produced by the chemical reaction that takes place as the molecules in the wood combine with oxygen. We call this reaction a combustion reaction - something combining with oxygen and releasing heat. An example that's a little easier to start with is the burning of natural gas (or methane, CH4). The reaction is given here.

What isn't shown in the reaction? When the chemical bonds rearrange to to produce the carbon dioxide and water from the methane and oxygen, energy is released. This energy is the heat that we feel when we sit next to the campfire. This energy is also used to cook the food. The energy released also creates the light that we see.

How many things in your home can you think of that produce either heat or light by burning something? Why are these things useful to you or your family?