The Last Stoic

A Lump Of Charcoal

Posted in Uncategorized by munty13 on October 7, 2009

A lump of charcoal is about 98% carbon. Phlogistonists believed that charcoal was virtually pure phlogiston. Some said that charcoal was surpassed only by hydrogen as a source of pure phlogiston. Charcoal is the blackish residue consisting of impure carbon obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. In the combustion of charcoal, temperatures of 600 to 1500 degrees C are reasonably easy to achieve. If we burn the charcoal in pure oxygen it produces only water, carbon dioxide and a small amount of ash.

Charcoal is a fuel made up of hydrocarbons. I see these hydrocarbons as anticyclonic vortices (hydrogen) which act like a bag full of carbon (phlogiston). I try to think of it as hydrogen fattened-up on carbon.

In the combustion process, I imagine it as oxygen being introduced to hydrogen to form elemental water. The hydrogen was over saturated with phlogiston (carbon) and the release of this phlogiston is activated by the hydrogen being joined by oxygen. The anticyclonic hydrogen and the cyclonic oxygen join together to form dipolar vortices, and a torus-shaped water atom is produced, which basically looks something like a ring donut. I think inside the vortex ring of this donut that the phlogiston is kicked into action, and it goes into something like a spin cycle.

A burning lump of charcoal also produces heat and light. Heat and light are waves in the aether. The movement of the phlogiston spinning around the vortex ring might also be responsible for generating waves in the aether. I imagine it as something like a little wobbling inflatable ring, or elastic band. Or even an underwater bubble-ring.

~~Photo of bubble ring courtesy of Joe Burch

I needed a gentle reminder of where we stand now, and so I’m going to lean back on a bit of text from Walter Fitzroy, below. You can find a copy of his letter here, thanks to:

“Phlogiston is present in all things that are combustible, and we are thankful that everything that contains phlogiston is not constantly in flames, and that it requires a release mechanism. I theorise that heat and fire are indeed release mechanisms for phlogiston and that it encourages phlogiston in the material to be released.”

So, according to Fitzroy, phlogiston is being released by the combustion process. I imagine a hydrocarbon contained in a fuel to be rich in phlogiston. I think that as the hydrocarbon begins the combustion process it joins oxygen to form water and releases phlogiston.

We are taught that colourless carbon monoxide is formed at the surface of the charcoal, and at base of the flame. Charcoal being the remains of burned wood, contains hydrocarbons that vaporize and produce a gas containing carbon monoxide. It is then said that the carbon monoxide burns with more oxygen to produce a blue flame.

I wonder if it’s possible that carbon monoxide is itself a combustion product? Rather than the carbon monoxide simply forming at the surface of the charcoal, maybe something else forms there first? This might help explain the invisible vapours which we find at the surface of the burning charcoal, and at the base of the flame.

Carbon monoxide gas apparently burns with a blue flame. I wanted to see this for myself and I managed to find a school experiment which blatantly shows the colour to be blue. My thanks to Blundell’s School for the demonstration:

I wanted to take a closer look at the base of the flame on our charcoal fire. Before we see the bluish flame at the base of the fire, we find at the very surface of the charcoal that there exist invisible vapours that are in the UV range. Some flame detection scanners use ultraviolet sensors. I borrowed the following extract from a descriptive piece on “Fireye UV flame scanners”:

“Choose a sighting location where the scanner will have an unobstructed view of the flame under all firing conditions. Greatest ultraviolet radiation is produced near the base of the flame in the area immediately ahead of the burner.”

These sensors are especially designed for application in hydrogen fires which can burn with an almost invisible flame. Pure hydrogen-oxygen flames burn in the ultraviolet colour range. Another danger with hydrogen fires is that they emit little radiant heat into the enviroment, therefore making infrared detectors somewhat obsolete. Is it possible that there is a hydrogen fire taking place at the surface of the burning charcoal?

According to this new theory (which is based on an old theory), hydrocarbons at the surface of the charcoal join oxygen from the air to form atomic water. This atomic water is absolutely brimming with phlogiston. I imagine the invisible vapours at the surface of the burning charcoal as somekind of water vapour that is rich in phlogiston. Hang on a mo’! Water brimming with phlogiston? Well, that sounds familiar. Indeed, it sounds a lot like the discussion in the previous post about methanol! Is it possible that a methanol-like fuel is produced at the surface of the charcoal during combustion?

Next up from the invisible vapours are the bluish flames, and then we have the yellow flames. If I run my hand over the yellow part of a flame it will blacken with soot – the carbon has not as yet fully combusted. If I run my hand above the tip of the flame, my hand will most certainly get hot, but it doesn’t get black because there is no soot – the carbon has been fully combusted.

In combustion processes, bluish flames are indicative of sootless flames. The high intensity of the blue flame consumes the fuel without producing soot. The blue portion of the flame is the most intense part of the flame (that’s why welders use it). As we move up from the blue part of the flame to the yellow part of the flame we find soot. One might suggest that the water atom is broken down at the blue flame to release its payload of phlogiston (soot).

When steam is superheated to about 1400 degrees C or more, the molecules of steam start splitting apart to form oxygen and hydrogen. That’s a temperature you will find in the blue part of the flame. It appears that our newly formed water atom is being cracked open, and phlogiston is released. The released phlogiston gives us the yellow part of the flame.

Incomplete combustion of charcoal produces carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. For complete combustion we have to introduce more oxygen. Complete combustion produces carbon dioxide and water. Carbon dioxide does not combust, it is a combustion product. Water does not combust either, but rather it is a product of combustion.

The temperatures in the luminous zone can be as cool as a few hundred degrees C, whereas the temperature in the blue part of the flame can be 1500 degrees C, or higher. If we were to add more oxygen to a yellow flame it should shrink and then combust with a blue flame. Under normal conditions, it looks like the blue part of the flame is absorbing more oxygen than the yellow part of the flame.

In the combustion of carbon monoxide you have carbon dioxide and water, which are the exact same products from the complete combustion of charcoal. One might argue that there is a striking similarity between hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, but apparently there’s no hydrogen onboard carbon monoxide. But I am reminded of something Priestley said about carbon dioxide.

Priestley said that “water makes up half the weight of carbon dioxide”. The atomic weight of carbon dioxide is 44 grams per mole. I suppose then that Priestley is saying that water in a carbon dioxide molecule weighs in at 22 grams per mole, and is then joined by something else at 22 grams per mole. Sodium weighs in at about 22 grams per mole. Is sodium making up the other half of carbon dioxide?

Indeed, Priestley said that water was “essential to the constitution of every kind of air”. I was just thinking that carbon monoxide has an atomic weight of 28 grams per mole. If half its weight was made up with water then it would leave something else which weighed about 14 grams per mole. It just so happens that nitrogen weighs 14 grams per mole. Is nitrogen making up the other half of carbon monoxide?

Phlogistonists long suspected nitrogen was a compound. Am I then to reason that nitrogen is a compound of water and phlogiston? That nitrogen is the movement of phlogiston as it circles around the vortex ring of a water atom? Is it the same thing for sodium?

I think phlogiston is made up of tiny particles of carbon that offer a resistance to the aether field. Further up the flame is the luminous zone where free carbon burns and releases the familiar light made up with yellows and reds. This is only an idea – so just roll with me – but I thought about the fact that sodium burns with a yellow flame. Is it possible that the phlogiston takes the form of sodium before it is vapourized into something else?

The bigger the hydrocarbon, the more likely you are to get a yellow, smokey flame. That would make carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide big hydrocarbons. In industry, they make methane from carbon dioxide and water, and you could look at it like they are watering down the strength of carbon dioxide to produce a reliable, household fuel. Is carbon dioxide a fuel source?

The products from a complete combustion of charcoal are carbon dioxide and water vapour. I think of the water has having all of the phlogiston removed by the combustion process. It’s as if the water vapour is the only evidence of a full combustion; that is, a water atom formed at the surface of the charcoal exits the flame after expending ALL of its phlogiston. Is carbon dioxide an incomplete combustion product?

Many thanks:

The history and present state of electricity: with original experiments By Joseph Priestley
Conduction of Electricity Through Gases and Radio-Activity By Robert Kenning McClung


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