Jump to content

Flash Paper (indoor Pyro effect)


Recommended Posts

you`ve seen Magicians use this stuff on stage etc... it looks like a sudden bright yellow Flash often from their hands during certain tricks, you Can buy this paper but it`s Very expensive and you only get a small amount.


for this experiment you`ll need a flask or beaker with a lid.

50ml of 98% sulphuric acid.

50ml of 70% Nitric acid.

several sheets of 2 ply toilet paper.

a pyrex casserole dish with lid.

a glass stir rod.

a good 50g of Sodium Carbonate (washing soda).

either a bucket of water or access to fresh running water.


the obvious safety goggles, apron/lab coat, gloves.


in the flask put your 50ml of nitric acid, then add the sulphuric acid gently.

it Will get warm! that`s normal, just allow it to cool to room temp with its lid on.


take 6 sheets of 2 ply toilet paper separated as individual sheets, make 2 piles of 3 sheets.

in the glass casserole dish pour a third of you acid into the bottom, then lay one pile of the sheets onto it, then pour another third of the acid mix ontop of that and then add the next pile of sheets.

pour the remaining acid mix ontop of that.

using the glass rod carefully make sure all the sheets are soaked in this mix, being carefull not to rip the paper, and then put the lid ontop of it all.

this proccess will make much acid vapor seen as a white "smoke" so use a fume hood or do this outside!


you can leave your sheets now for 10 to 15 mins, leaving it longer doesn`t improve the effect at all and there no gain to be had doing so.


your paper will have changes color somewhat by now and taken on an almost Plastic type texture, remove the lid and submerse the whole dish under water (in your sink or bucket), stir very gently and then lift the sheets out with the glass rod, don`t worry if they all seem to be stuck together, that`s perfectly normal!.


wash your casserole dish out with plain water, then put your sheets back in it along with the Sodium carbonate then add enough water to dissolve the sodium carbonate and cover the sheets.

Fizzing will be seen as the remaining acid is being neutralised.

at this stage with gloves on it will be possible to separate each individual sheet, being careful not to tear them as they are quite brittle at this point, leave then in the carbonate to soak until all fizzing has stopped. the paper and liquid will take on a darker color, (yellowish).


then take them out 1 as a time and wash then under fresh running water and pat dry with a towel.


leave them to dry in a warm place, you`ll notice that when they`re 100% dry they seem to get much softer and not as brittle, it`s even possible with care to split the double ply in each sheet making 12 thin sheets.


store these in a zip-lock plastic bag, and only take one sheet out at a time, don`t light any near the entire pile!


for lighting take hold of a sheet by a corner, use a lighter or a Cigarette to ignite the opposing corner and let go, it`ll have vanish long before it`s hit the floor! and the brightness is incredible!

it burns that fast that a small piece gently crumpled up can be lit on the palm of the hand with no burning or ash or even smoke (although do some tests before trying this!).


for the more Adventurous Chemist, you can use an equal mix of Strontium and Potassium carbonate as the neutralising base and get a Red color flash from the paper too :)

barium works also, but a White rather than a green seems to be the outcome.


if you Must store this material for very long periods of time (although there`s no need to as it can be made in under half an hour start to finish, then keep it inside the zip-lock bag with plenty bicarb of soda in there and store it in a plastic container like a margerine tub with a lid, in a cool place.


Enjoy, but Play Safe!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This looks a lot like the cotton wadding experiment I did some time ago, but using sheets of paper of course is nicer.

There is only one concern. How stable are these pieces of paper on storage? On a dutch chemistry forum I read from a person that these nitrated papers and pieces of wadding can self-ignite if not carefully prepared. He could not tell though what is meant with 'carefully prepared'. Just to err on the safe side, I would store them in a metal tin, which is loosely capped. If they ignite, then the tin will keep the fire confined. A plastic box will melt and may also catch fire.


I'm gonna try this. This would be nice for tomorrow evening :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

the reason for the plastic is that it cannot create fragments, also this stuff burns SO FAST, it doesn`t even set fire to normal paper :)


as long as it`s 100% neutralised it should be fine, although the idea of storring for any length of time seems crazy anyway without excess Alkali. it`s so easy and quick to make anyway, storing if for a time would be pointless.

the safest would be to just leave it under the base water :)


Gilded: why such a surprise? do you think I spend all my time in Lab doing nothing Interesting?

Sure I like nice effects, just the same as the next guy :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

true but to make conc nitric acid from KNO3 and H2SO4 is quite hard without distilling equipment. With the method in question the KNO3 and H2SO4 are mixed to give a crude nitrating mix with alot of impurities i.e potassium sulphate whch still works but is not as effective.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

time for a disclaimer methinks:


Any deviation from the steps described here could lead to undesirable results. Any injury caused during the carrying out of these steps (augmented or not) is your own responsibility and not that of SFN or YT2095. If you can't follow instructions don't try it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course people can experiment with this and try to reach the same result with other chems, but it also is their responsibility to do those things in a safe way. SFN cannot take any responsibility for accidents, and if people do not feel confident about their abilities to perform this kind of experiments in a safe way then they either should not do it at all, or first ask information from people who are more experienced.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Apologies but I wasn't implying people should go out and blindly attempt the method I originally pointed out. The whole point of me posting it was to discuss the method in question to see if people thought it was an acceptable alternative. People shouldn't attempt alternative methods if they have no understading of the chemicals used and no information of there safety but I see no problem with them being carried out if they are discussed before hand and shown to be safe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

if you like, I will test this KNO3 + H2SO4 reaction for you in the Lab when I get a little time and then post the results (I can`t say when this will be however).

the problem I CAN envisage is the dissolution of the crystals in 98% sulphuric without NOx gases being produced at high volume and lots of Lumpy bits that can rip the paper easily.


if you can Wait a bit, I`ll test this 1`st and let you know of safety and other practical considerations involved :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.