Zinc Dust

This experiment is for advanced students.

Who gets to burn something today? YOU get to burn something today!

You will be working with Zinc (Zn). Other labs in this kit allow us to burn metal, but there is a bit of a twist this time. We will be burning a powder.

Why a powder instead of a solid ribbon or foil as in the other labs? Have you heard of surface area being a factor in a chemical reaction? The more surface area there is to burn, the more dramatic the chemical change. So, with this fact in mind, a powder should burn faster or be more likely to burn than a large solid.

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10 Responses to “Zinc Dust”
  1. I am sorry you’re having trouble with this! It sounds like there might have some kind of contaminant involved with your process. In any case, there’s not an effective way to remove the material from the spoon short of an industrial solvent. It would be best just to discard it and start with a new one.

  2. laurieannema says:

    I did this experiment with Home Science Tools zinc powder. At first I did it over the alcohol burner on a stove top with the fan on high, but after at least seven minutes of no color change in either the zinc or the flame, I switched to the stove’s burner. I tried that for several minutes, but without any visible change. Finally, I decided there must be something wrong with my Zinc and stopped. But after I let it cool and tried to throw it away, I discovered that the zinc powder had turned rock hard and fused to the spoon! It hadn’t altered in appearance at all, no color change, no shrinking, nothing. I managed to scratch it a little with a tooth pick, but not enough to really get any out. This was the first time I used the spoon (from the C300 kit). Do you have any idea why this happened? And could you give me some tips on how to get it out of my spoon? Thanks.

  3. It sounds like it didn’t get hot enough. My recommendation would be to try again if you’re able for a longer amount of time.

  4. karenketzner says:

    We burned the zinc powder (not zinc oxide) over the flame for about 4 minutes and did not get any color change from yellow and back to white. How long do we need to burn it? We bought the zinc from Home Science tools approximately a month ago and used an alcohol burner. Did our flame not get hot enough? Thanks!

  5. Sodium hydroxide is made during experiment #170 if you’re using the 2.0 version of C3000. Unfortunately there is no longer any zinc powder in the newest version, but it can be obtained at ceramic or pottery stores.

    Here’s the material match for C3000:


    I hope this helps!

  6. Kathleen Broaddus says:

    I could not find zinc powder in the Chem C3000 kit, or sodium hydroxide (solid). Are they not included?

  7. Aurora says:

    The flame should be turning blue and that would indicate that the zinc is undergoing a chemical change to zinc oxide. If this didn’t happen, I suspect that your additional variables (wind and possibly sunlight?) could be impacting the experiment, resulting in the zinc not getting oxidized. The other issue could be impure zinc samples.

    My recommendation would be to try again if you’re able, while controlling for wind and sun as much as possible. If the flame is blue, you should see the change to yellow and back to while once it cools. Let us know how it goes!

  8. Lisa Pearson says:

    We used the wick-less alcohol burner with denatured alcohol for fuel, the flame looked normal. We were outside, with a slight wind, so maybe the temp of the flame varied. Three different samples of zinc dust. Each sample turned a different color- one purple, one yellow/green, one black.

  9. Aurora says:

    Do you mean that the zinc itself turned purple, then yellow/green, then black? What color was the flame?

    It sounds like there are other variables impacting the results. The spoon is a metal alloy, but it should be fairly stable.

  10. Lisa Pearson says:

    We tried this three different times today. The first time, the zinc turned purple; second time the zinc was yellowish while hot and green when cool; third time the zinc turned black. Any ideas why? All the samples were from the same, newly opened bottle, same location, same alcohol burner, same spoon. The spoon was stainless steel.

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