Why do things go black when burned?

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Offline JuliaKia

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Why do things go black when burned?
« on: 05/07/2008 13:11:52 »
JuliaKia  asked the Naked Scientists:

Hi Chris,

Maybe this seems like a really simple question, but why do things turn black when burnt? It doesn't seem to matter what colour they start out. I thought it might have something to do with carbon? After all, almost everything I can think of that burns is or was at some point organic...

Julia in Amsterdam

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 19/11/2010 14:04:29 by JuliaKia »


Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: Why do things go black when burned?
« Reply #1 on: 05/07/2008 21:50:23 »
You are correct but it does depend how effectively you burn them.

Most everyday materials other than metals or glass and ceramics are organic in composition and contain a lot of carbon  as you heat them in air they decompose and oxidise to release water oxides of nitrogen and other chemicals they make up leaving behind a "skeleton" of carbon and a few inorganic compounds like oxides of metals and phosphorous etc in them  this is sometimes called charcoal and is usually black continued heating in air will oxidise this carbon to carbon dioxide and leave behind inorganic ash which is usually a grayish white.
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