Note: This involves combining fire which can always be dangerous with chemicals that can irritate skin or badly hurt eyes! Only do this with proper supervision and safety equipment including goggles, gloves, and a fire extinguisher!
The classic Jack-o-lantern has been around for hundreds of years. The tradition was brought to America by the Irish, who had originally started carving the spooky faces into turnips based on a folk tale. Moving to pumpkins was undoubtedly an upgrade, and we think it’s about time for another one!
The lighting of a jack-o-lantern is classically done by candles. Candles burn with a yellowish flame giving off a special glow, but there are ways to make flame in different colors! To do this, the fuel simply needs to have different kinds of salts added. When you think of salt, it probably conjures images of a table seasoning known as sodium chloride, but this is not the only possibility.
Salt actually a scientific term referring to the category of molecule that is left over from pouring acidic and basic solutions together. Fortunately, to acquire these salts, you don’t need to risk working with potentially dangerous acids that could leave you with a costume you couldn’t take off!
Most of these are the result of mixing something with hydrochloric acid, which means that they are often chlorine combined with another molecule, just like sodium chloride! Adding energy in the form of fire causes these molecules to give off unique energy in the form of differently colored light!
Caption: Different salts give off different colors of light. This can come in many forms including from red strontium chloride and green from cupric chloride.
Our fire source was rubbing alcohol, with the chosen salt stirred in. To keep it from going everywhere, we used a small glass jar instead of the dishes above. To make sure the liquid burned easily and evenly, we used a cotton ball as a wick like a candle, and put it in the jack-o-lantern!.