Is fire a solid, a liquid or a gas? (Smithsonian.com)
Is fire a solid, a liquid or a gas?
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The answer is none of the above. Contrary to what the ancient Greeks thought, not only is fire not one of four basic elements that make up everything in the universe, fire isnt even a substance. Its a process.

As any good Boy Scout knows, to light a fire, you need three things: fuel, heat and oxygen. Each type of fuel has whats called an ignition temperature for wood, its about 500F. This is the point at which molecules of the fuel break up because of the heat and become gases. These gases then react with the oxygen in the air and presto chango you get fire.

Fire will eventually burn itself out when it runs out of enough fuel, heat or oxygen. So it makes sense that traditional extinguishers work to remove at least one of these elements.

But heres where it gets weird.

Weve known since the 1900s that sound yup, you heard me right sound can extinguish fire. Although we still dont exactly understand how this works something to do with a drop in pressure leading to a drop in temperature researchers are developing technology that uses this nifty technique. But for now, stick to the tried and true methods of fire extinguishing.

Critical thinking challenge: How do traditional fire extinguishers remove one of the elements necessary to make fire?

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Assigned 23 times


COMMENTS (21)
  • Q-Satow.1
    5/29/2014 - 06:38 p.m.

    Is a fire a solid, liquid, or a gas. It isn't any of those states. In fact, it isn't even a state, its a process. As a fire needs fuel to burn, the fuel will dissipate until there is no more fuel, thus ending the fire. I think that this helps us understand how some things can lead us to believe that it is what it is not.

  • NicoK-5
    5/29/2014 - 10:32 p.m.

    A fire is not a solid, liquid, or gas. It is a process. You need fuel to make fire, and it goes away from using various techniques. Scientists are trying to figure out why lower temperatures cause fire to extinguish. Sound can also extinguish fire.
    I think it's interesting that fire is not a solid, liquid, or gas. If I were to guess, I would've said it's closest to a gas.

  • joshm-5
    5/29/2014 - 10:58 p.m.

    This article is about fire. Is fire a solid, liquid, or gas? The world may never know. To light a fire you need fuel, oxygen, and heat. Fire eventually burns out after a fire, but can also be put out by something that brings the temperature lower, and apparently, some sounds can utilize fire to make it run out. I think that is crazy and that fire is a gas because it gives off smoke which is a gaseous substance, but i may be wrong.

  • LucP-5
    5/30/2014 - 01:10 a.m.

    This article is about how fire isn't any element, it is a substance. This is because fire need three things to stay alive. Those three things are fuel, heat and, oxygen. Fire will eventually burn itself out when it runs out of one of those three things. So if you use a normal fire extinguisher then it will eliminate at least one of the elements. I think that fire would most likely be one of the four main elements of life. I also think that fire if it was an element that it would be a gas or plasma.

  • 9morganm
    5/30/2014 - 07:12 a.m.

    I always thought fire was a gas because it is not really a solid or a liquid. Also fire is not a substance? Wow that's weird and interesting. another interesting thing from this article is that when the molecules break up in fuel it becomes a gas. This article was very interesting I still can't believe fire isn't a substance.

  • damienp-Sch
    5/30/2014 - 01:28 p.m.

    i think that if you wanna put out fire back in the day they could have take the oxygen away from the fire so that it didn't have energy. they would have put something to cover it up.

  • aarong-Sch
    5/30/2014 - 01:34 p.m.

    what? you can put out fire with sound that trips me out i am going to try this when i get home... i think i ll start out small.

  • TylaB
    5/30/2014 - 01:43 p.m.

    I think that fire is a solid and gas, but according to the video above it isn't one of the basic elements. I thought it was a gas because when it burns out it goes to air and evaporates, and some people even eat it and pit it in their mouths.

  • brynnd
    5/30/2014 - 01:56 p.m.

    I never thought about if fire is a solid, liquid, or gas. I always thought it was just fire. This is quite a good argument though.

  • NATASHARS-ZDE
    5/30/2014 - 03:52 p.m.

    This article just change everything. The form of fire is something that has been lingering at the back of my mind for a while and it did spark some curiosity but I never questioned it. This information about fire needs to be spread more so people can understand it better. Technology that includes a way to manipulate fire will ignite a whole new field of technology once it officially begins.

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