Potassium Permanganate Fire – By Friction?

I can remember my first experience of observing a fire created by exothermic chemical reaction using KMnO 4 (potassium permanganate) , sugar, and acid during my after-school Science Club in Junior High School. Little did I know then that it would become my primary “Firecraft – Chemical Category” demonstration.

Typically, most chemical exothermic reactions involve some kind of liquid to initiate the reaction process. Although there are many chemical combinations to create a KMnO 4 fire, to my amazement, there is a fire method that does not require a liquid element in the equation. When mixed with sugar in a 1:1 ratio (a pile of each element about a quarter size in diameter) and mixed, you can lay a knife blade on it’s side or use a flat rock on top of the pile and press down firmly and begin rapid short strokes forward and backward. You will begin to hear small “pops” at some point the combination of heat by friction combined with the mixed chemicals will ignite. This typically produces sparks and embers that can be pushed together and coaxed into a flame using fine dry tinder layed next to the grinding site in ready position. Or sometimes, when technique and conditions are right, it may just erupt into a flame on it’s own as shown in the photo.

Since “9/11″ pyro-related chemicals have become restricted and more difficult to obtain. Potassium permanganate is a chemical oxidizing agent that is used for medicinal purposes and water purification and may be found at pharmacies and veterinarian supplies. It is also used to remove iron from water sources and can be found at chemical supply houses. It would be a good item to carry in portable first aid kits.

Should you decide to pursue this fire method, take care to stay upwind from the fumes. When using liquids for a reaction, it may take a little time to react, so don’t walk away from your experiment or abandon the set-up until you see a reaction and be sure to disassemble it altogether when finished. Potassium permanganate will stain deep magenta when moistened, so be thorough when cleaning up.

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5 thoughts on “Potassium Permanganate Fire – By Friction?

  1. Very neat! Just saw this method on a survival TV show – the method they used was a handdrill shaft to grind the KMNO4 and sugar in a divet on a log.

  2. Your site is very well done. I am a self taught naturalist. Wild edible plants are my specialty. I’m 66 years old and sometimes forget the names of the plants, but so far don’t forget their uses. Lol

  3. I’ve thought I had learned just a good amount of fire starting capabilities for camping with my son. I’m an extreme adventurer and recently gave up, packed up all my skydiving gear for more father son adventures b4 he begins Navy May 2018. Super cool method. I’ve heard the potassium but the “permanganate” would never be pronounced clear enough, that is, until I deduced the word after potassium. Nonetheless, EXCELLENT (another means) source to start fire. Thank you whoever posted this. The Russian Hacker is a favorite of mine. Kind Regards

  4. Hello there.
    I am a survavalist, and a writer, finishing a set of books to organize and keep the survival knowledge by written, and I want to use as many credited pictures to illustrate my books as possible, but from many fellow survavilists, to unite knowledge and to avoid risking of self uphold by readers, to show we are many and no one learns it all by himself.
    I want to ask for your permission to use this picture to illustrate one of the fire paragraphs.
    Please revert comments back to douglasdetoledo@gmail.com or +55 41 99546 2417 (Telegram).
    All the best.

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