Next time when you eat an orange, think twice before tossing the orange peels in the garbage! Your kids will love creating an explosion just by squeezing the orange peel next to the flame.
Orange peels can be used for many different things. For example, orange peel can be used as a natural cleaner. Simply add a few strips of orange peel to a bowl of vinegar, and let it sit for a day or two to infuse. Or you can use the orange peel to make a deliciously fragrant potpourri.
But did you know that you can use orange peel to make an excellent fire starter? Just add a few strips of orange peel to your kindling, and you’ll be able to get your fire going in no time. Keep this in mind for your next camping trip!
The reason orange peels make such a good fire starter is also why when you squeeze the orange peel at the flame of a candle, you can create a giant fireball. Before we dive into the science behind the orange peel and fire experiment, let’s make some fireworks first!
How to Create Fireworks with Orange Peels
- Match or lighter
1. Cut the orange into sections with the knife.
I recommend cutting just the peel into sections and then slowly peeling each section off. If you cut too deep, it’s difficult to get the pulp of the fruit off the peel.
And if your kids love fire experiments like mine, make sure you cut several orange peels because they will want to do the experiment over and over!
2. Light the candle with a match or lighter.
3. Place the orange peel close to the fire (but make sure the fire is not burning the peel), with the rind toward the flame.
4. Squeeze the juice from the orange peel at the flame. Watch the flame turn into a fireball!
If you have multiple kids doing this experiment at the same time, make sure they practice patience and take turns. The fireball can be quite big (as you can see from the picture above) and if the other child’s hand is near the flames, he or she might get burned. Always take extra precautions when doing science experiments involving fire!
You can repeat the experiment as many times as you wish. You can probably get 3-4 flashes of fire from one section of the orange peel before it runs out of oil.
My kids want to keep doing this experiment because it’s just so cool! We used up two oranges. The kids had lots of fun creating fireworks and then ate the oranges as a healthy snack afterward!
Science Behind the Orange Flamethrower Experiment
Oranges are delicious, but that means bugs will want to get into them and eat the juicy pulp. To prevent insects from digging into the fruit, oranges developed a defense system. Orange rinds contain chemicals called d-limonene which help keep away pesky infestations by mold or other pests.
Limonene is not only found in the peel of oranges, but also in other citrus fruits such as lemons, grapefruits, mandarins, and limes. It is especially concentrated in orange peels, making up 97% of the essential oils in the peel.
When you squeeze the orange peel hard near the flame, essential oils that contain d-limonene shoot out of the rind and catch fire. This creates cool flashes of flame in the air.
Try doing the same experiment with other citrus fruits and see if the oils from those fruits are as flammable as the orange essential oil!
Harry Potter and the Orange Flash Experiment
I actually got the idea for this experiment when I was researching science experiments for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We just finished reading the chapter where Hagrid showed Harry the dragon egg and that the dragon egg hatched. Then Harry and his friends had to find a way to get rid of Norbert before he grew too big for Hagrid’s hut.
This orange flash experiment is a great way to show kids how a dragon could breathe fire. Perhaps the dragon somehow starts a spark of fire in its mouth and then sprays limonene to create a giant fireball.
So if you are doing a unit study on Harry Potter, this orange flamethrower experiment is the perfect activity to incorporate into your mystical creature or dragon unit!
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