Combustion of Magnesium


When a magnesium strip is ignited it burns with a brilliant white light, forming a bright white powder, magnesium oxide.

Curriculum Notes 

This classic demonstration can be used to illustrate combustion, a combination reaction, a formation reaction, a redox reaction, or an exothermic reaction. Allow about 5 minutes for this demo.

One day of lead time is required for this project.


  • 6-8 cm magnesium strip
  • propane torch and igniter
  • ring stand
  • ring stand clamp
  • large forceps
  • large watch glass
  • polycarbonate blast shield
  • polycarbonate goggles


  • Clamp the magnesium ribbon by holding it with the forceps and clamping it with the ring stand clamp.
  • Attach to the ring stand.
  • Place the watch galss under the magnesium to catch the magnesium oxide that is formed.
  • Place the blast shield in front of the magnesium.
  • Ignite the magnesium with the propane torch.
  • The magnesium oxide that forms may be displayed to the class.

Safety Notes

Keep a small container of dry sand nearby to extinguish any burning magnesium.  Keep a fire extinguisher nearby to extinguish any secondary fires.  Keep all flammable material at a safe distance.  Burning magnesium emits ultraviolet light.  Polycarbonate blocks ultraviolet light, so use the polycarbonate blast shield to protect the students' eyes and the demonstrator should wear polycarbonate goggles.