Q:

What color does magnesium burn?

A:

Quick Answer

Magnesium metal burns bright white. The bright white light from magnesium contains ultraviolet light that can cause permanent eye damage, so the combustion should not be viewed directly.

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Full Answer

In chemistry a flame test, in which materials are set on fire, is sometimes used to determine the presence of certain elements. When the material is heated sufficiently, a reaction causes electrons to jump from their ground state to a higher electron orbital. When cooled sufficiently, electrons return to a ground state and release energy in the form of light. The light released varies in wavelength based on the material contained in the sample and can then be compared to known results. The flame test is considered qualitative since it does not give any data about the exact proportions of elements and does not identify elements that do not produce a flame.

Magnesium is highly flammable and difficult to put out with regular extinguishers, so proper supervision and safety equipment must be worn at all times while magnesium is burning. Magnesium and its alloys can reach 3,100 degrees Celsius. Pure magnesium metal is not found naturally on earth due to its high reactivity. Magnesium plays a vital role in human biology cell growth and in plant growth, specifically in chlorophyll.

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