Try this investigation to explore irreversible reactions and what materials need to burn
This resource is also available in Welsh and Irish
Get the Welsh language version.
Get the Irish language version.
This experiment focuses on using producing carbon dioxide to extinguish a candle. First watch the video showing the ‘fire extinguisher’ demonstration, then find out how to run the investigation with your learners.
- To describe the difference between a reversible and an irreversible change.
- To explain that some changes result in the formation of new materials (in this case, one of these is carbon dioxide) and that this kind of change is not usually reversible.
- To understand that some gases are heavier than others.
- To understand what variables are.
Watch the video
The video below shows how to carry out the ‘fire extinguisher’ demonstration.
Download the supporting materials
Set up and run the investigation with your class using the teacher notes and classroom slides, featuring a full equipment list, method, key words and definitions, questions for learners, FAQs and more.
PDF | Editable PowerPoint document
What do learners need to know first?
Learners would benefit from investigating burning as an irreversible process.
Learners must understand the properties of solids, liquids and gases and the behaviour of the molecules in each state.
Learners should also have previously investigated reversible changes and be able to give scientific examples.
Learners should have some knowledge of fair testing and the effect of changing variables.
- Bicarbonate of soda
- Long matches (short matches will work but long ones help avoid burnt fingers)
- Large jug (approx. 2 litre)
- Tea light candles
- Glass bowl (large enough to contain at least 5–6 tea lights for best effect)
- Dessert spoon
- Water/fire blanket (as a safety measure)
- Investigate irreversible changes further in our freaky hand investigation or bath bombs investigation.
- Investigate the properties of gases further in our lava lamp investigation.
- Read up on irreversible changes in this That’s Chemistry! textbook chapter or find out more about burning in this That’s Chemistry! textbook chapter.
- Find out how to integrate this fire extinguisher experiment with teaching about the Vikings.
Fire extinguisher: teacher notesEditable handout | Word, Size 0.64 mb
Fire extinguisher: teacher notesHandout | PDF, Size 0.32 mb
Fire extinguisher: classroom slidesPresentation | PowerPoint, Size 8.7 mb
Fire extinguisher: classroom slidesPresentation | PDF, Size 1.64 mb
Primary science investigations were developed in collaboration with the Primary Science Teaching Trust
Primary science investigations
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Irreversible changes and the ‘fire extinguisher’
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