Fun & Educational Science Experiments For Kids

Magnetic Matchsticks

Attract matchsticks using a magnet and leave your friends guessing!

Suitable for kids aged 8+ with adult supervision
You Need:
  • Matchsticks (non-safety or 'strike anywhere' matches with the red head. work best).
  • A strong neodemium magnet.
What to do:
  1. Open up a matchbox and select a number of matches.
  2. Place the neodemium magnet onto the heads (red) of the matchsticks.
  3. You'll observe that they do not attract or move towards the magnet.
  4. Burn the matches by striking them as normal, once head of match is burned you can extinguish it by blowing air onto it.
  5. Now repeat step 2 and place the magnet onto the matchstick heads, you should observe that they're attracted to the magnet! But how?

Why is it so?

The red matchstick head is made from iron oxide and under normal circumstances it is not magnetic. So that's why you would of observed the unused/fresh matchstick not sticking (attracting) to the magnet. But when the matchstick is struck and burnt, it produces pure iron, which is magnetic.

A simple equation for the reaction would be:

Iron(III) oxide + carbon → iron + carbon dioxide

SO when the matchstick is burnt, it undergoes a chemical reaction, turning the red head (iron oxide and carbon) into iron and carbon dioxide gas. The iron produced is what causes the matchstick head to attract to the magnet. This trick is more than a magic illusion... it's SCIENCE!

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