MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: What is the temperature of a candle flame?

Date: Tue May 12 17:37:15 1998
Posted By: Jeffrey Goldmeer, Post-doc/Fellow, Microgravity Combustion Science, NASA Lewis Research Center
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 892490948.Ch

The exact temperature of a candle flames depends on the material being 
consumed (burned).  First, it is important to understand that a candle does 
NOT burn the wick (the string).  It is the wax that acts as the fuel for 
the candle flame.  The heat of the flame melts the wax, transforming the 
solid wax into a liquid, which then travels up the wick.  (This process is 
known as capillary action.)  Eventually the liquid wax is turned into a gas 
(like steam from a boiling kettle on the stove) and is consumed by the 

Different waxes will have different flame temperatures.  On average, the 
maximum flame temperature will be about 2550 deg F.   (Remember that water 
boils at 212 deg F.)  

There have been numerous experiments involving candles, including a series 
of experiments that NASA has conducted in the Space Shuttle.  Without 
buoyancy, which is the natural upward motion of hot air, flames look very 
different in the weightless environment.  There are candle flame images and 
descriptions of the experiments on the following web site:


Flames:  Their Structure, radiation and temperature, 3rd edition, Chapman 
and Hall, Ltd., 1970, pp 139-141.

Dr. Jeffrey S. Goldmeer
NRC Research Associate / NASA Lewis Research Center

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